Las Vegas Sun

December 1, 2021

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real estate:

Out of pain, a shot at gain

Homes that were sources of misfortune now hold opportunity


Sam Morris

Prospective homebuyers look over a house Saturday. Auctions often offer homes that are deeply discounted but show signs of despair.

A large home auction this weekend unveils a sad tableau of our widening foreclosure market: Houses and condos of varying values, sizes and conditions scattered across the Las Vegas Valley and throughout the Silver State available for fractions of their worth.


Robert Overs looks over a house Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009 that is slated to be a auctioned off in a large auction of foreclosed homes. Launch slideshow »

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There’s the 5,700-square-foot estate home in a lush, gated Green Valley community that was once valued at $1.45 million that could potentially be had for about one-third that price. It will probably require hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs, due to the previous occupants’ fits of temper.

Less than a mile away, a tract home off Wigwam Parkway carries with it a $59,000 opening bid and less apparent damage, save for a bubble of paint formed by a water leak in the corner of the kitchen.

A weathered, 939-square-foot home east of Highway 95 that stands in an older and humble neighborhood could prove to be one of the steals of the auction: The one-story appears intact and could be bought for less than the cost of a midsize sedan. The opening bid is $1,000 — but the minimum price for a sale is unclear.

And in Lake Las Vegas, a spotless and furnished California-inspired condo has a sweeping vista of the sun-drenched village below and is just a two-minute walk from the Ritz-Carlton hotel. But be prepared to pay hundreds in monthly homeowners association fees.

These are but four of about 325 bank- and lender-owned homes that will be up for sale at auctions Saturday and Monday at the Plaza downtown and Saturday at the Holiday Inn Reno-Sparks. In past auctions elsewhere, about 65 to 70 percent of the properties were purchased by first-time buyers and homeowners looking for a change, with investors making up the balance, according to Rick Weinberg, spokesman for auction sponsor Real Estate Disposition Corp.

The sales are certainly attracting the interest of another group: the neighbors of these vacant, often decaying homes.

At a recent open house to promote the auction, neighbors in the upscale subdivision off Robindale Road swarmed the 5,700-square-foot Green Valley home, curious whether the place had been trashed. It had.

The grass needs to be replaced. The pool was never fully drained, and fetid water remains. There’s a hole in a wall large enough for a football to be passed through. The built-in speaker system was ripped out and the water meter is missing. Buyer beware, indeed.

Neighbor Marla Kohan, 52, and her daughters inspected the house with expert attention. This is the fourth time Kohan has visited this house, most recently 18 months ago.

“I don’t think this house is a steal,” she said, peeking into the swimming pool area. “You’ll have to spend at least a quarter-million to fix it up.”

If it were up to her, she’d implode it and start anew.

Inside, Val Easterwood and her husband, Robert, weighed the struggle for potential homebuyers and especially investors: the potential for a home at a deep discount with the tangible stains of foreclosure.

“I know a lot of people want to do this — buy property (at bargain prices) — but they can’t the stand the thought that a family once lived here,” said Val Easterwood, 60, who lives in the subdivision. “You see the remnants of their lives. It’s heartbreaking.

“You just hate that somebody else’s misfortune is your good fortune.”

Others at this open house see opportunity more clearly. At the tract home off Wigwam, prospective homebuyers have made their intentions quite clear.

“I’m trying to find a house for next to nothing,” said Jayme Swearingen, 53.

Her husband, Charles, laughed. “Yeah, that way we can help the economy,” the 50-year-old says. “Give back, ya know? Instead of taking.”

The real estate agent showing the home encourages visitors to buy investment properties, noting that properties could be bought for $30,000 and rented out for $400 monthly over the mortgage.

The opening bid on this tract house is $59,000, but potential investor Keith Howard cautions anyone who will listen not to read too much into it. “It’s not a believable price,” he says, explaining that the auction will yank a property if bids do not cross a certain threshold.

Real Estate Disposition Corp., which is conducting the auction, would not release the reserve prices, nor does the company have a figure depicting the average percentage difference between the opening bids and reserve prices.

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