At Foreclosure Auctions, the Hunt Is On

At Foreclosure Auctions, the Hunt Is On

Opportunity is knocking in the chilly winter air of this Seattle suburb, and Rock Harrison intends to answer it.

Built like a linebacker and sporting a mustache-goatee combo, Harrison, 37, is one of three dozen people who have gathered around an aluminum picnic table outside an office building in a strip mall for one of two weekly public foreclosure auctions in Washington’s King County. 

Harrison and four competitors have qualified to bid on a 3,300-square-foot McMansion on an acre lot in the south county town of Auburn. The house last sold for $470,450 more than four years ago, the county assesses it at $577,000, and well over $600,000 is owed against it on a pair of loans.

But the foreclosing lender, trying to recoup what it can in an area of plummeting real estate prices, has set the opening bid at just $267,000. Interest is high because most would-be buyers figure the house, currently vacant and in decent shape, can be quickly resold for about $500,000.

A short, bespectacled crier presides over the auction from one end of the picnic table.

The bidding quickly leaps over $300,000, going up $3,000 and $4,000 at a pop, with offers from all participants. Above $320,000, where Harrison drops out, it becomes a two-man contest, each new bid often just $100 or $200 above the last. After more than 10 minutes and 75 bids, the property finally sells for just under $371,000.

Harrison tosses his bidding card on the table, tugs on his baseball cap with its Skidoo logo and awaits his next prospect.

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