That sold for what?! 7 revealing facts about tax auction in Detroit

Just $500.

That was the starting bid for nearly 15,000 houses, churches and businesses in Detroit in the second and final phase of the 2013 Wayne County tax-foreclosure auction.

This is the beginning of a week full of details from the auction after thousand of properties changed hands by the Friday deadline.

Here are seven revealing facts about the auction:

1. About 40% of the properties didn’t fetch the minimum $500 bid.

454 Horton

About 6,500 houses, buildings and vacant parcels went unsold – even with a minimum $500 bid. Many of the homes were intact but in declining neighborhoods; others were gutted by fire or thieves. Those properties now belong to the city, which already owns about 52,000 parcels, a vast majority of which it neglects.

2. Intact house from 1870 goes unsold.

3875 33rd

This house at 3875 33rd St. was the oldest in the auction. Built in 1870, the house had the same owner since 1968 but is now vacant. The house is secured and appears to be structurally sound. The house next door is occupied.

3. Sold for $108,000 in 2009, this house can’t get $500 bid.

100 W. Montana

Plenty of nice homes were among those not sold, including this one at 100 W. Montana. The east side house sold for $108,000 in 2009, but the area is much more abandoned now and apparently didn’t catch the interests of investors or new homeowners.

4. More than 9,000 properties have new owners.

920 Marston

Since most of the foreclosed properties have been abandoned, new ownership raises hope that the houses and businesses will be maintained. Many of the winning bidders are investors who plan to rent out the properties. This house at 920 Marston sold for $1,000.

5. The most bids on a property – 141 – went to a vacant lot.

6230 John R

This vacant lot at 6230 John R. fetched 141 bids and sold for $550,000. The property is 173,000 square feet and has a good location for a commercial building, between Woodward and the Fisher Body Plant.

6. The most popular area for cheap houses was northwest Detroit.

The area surrounding the Belmont neighborhood in northwest Detroit attracted a lot of investors and new homeowners who were attracted to the intact homes and relatively safe environment. Of the 441 houses up for auction, 391 sold. The area, which goes beyond Belmont, is bounded by McNichols to the north, Fenkell to the south, Wyoming to the east and Southfield Freeway to the west. This house on Tracey sold in the auction for $12,500 – one of the highest of the bunch.

7. Who wants to buy a house in an urban prairie? No one, apparently.

 467 & 475 Robinwood

Three of the most notoriously dangerous and abandoned streets in Detroit are at the southeast corner of Woodward and 7 Mile. The hardest hit section is two blocks long – from Woodward to John R. So it’s no surprise that 44 of the 45 tax-foreclosed homes didn’t attract a single bidder, including these two houses at 475 and 467 Robinwood.

Photos by Steve Neavling. Property information via Why Don’t We Own This?, a one-stop site about each Detroit property.


Other auction stories:

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

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