ATLANTIC CITY — “It’s only money,” an auctioneer said between bid calling Thursday morning at a foreclosure auction in the city.
When the bids stalled, he coaxed them by saying, “You came all this way.”
Within 20 minutes, bidders spent close to $300,000 on real estate that had become the city’s property after falling into foreclosure.
The auction, hosted by Max Spann Real Estate and Auction Company, of Hunterdon County, featured 35 properties — including commercial, multifamily, row and single-family homes — located all across the city, including one on the water.
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Close to 100 residents, officials and investors filled a room inside the Atlantic City Convention Center, placing their bids or watching the action.
Kurt Kwart, a real estate investor with eight properties in the city, said he had his eye on one or two homes before the auction began.
Kwart, who owns a few properties on Ocean Avenue, said homes used to be priced so low it was a “no-brainer” to invest and flip them into Airbnbs for tourists who come into the city for the casinos and the beach.
“Now, everyone’s jumping in because prices are so high everywhere else,” he said.
Atlantic County has New Jersey’s highest rate of foreclosed properties, with nearly one in every 42 homes engaged in some level of the process. Statewide, the foreclosure rate is one in every 1,000.
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Kwart bid on a property in the 100 block of South Ocean Avenue but lost to another man who outbid him. The three-story row home went for $67,500.
The auction was a product of months of work by city staff who visited more than 200 properties the city has taken through property-tax foreclosure to see which could be auctioned, redeveloped, demolished or used by nonprofits, said Lisa M. Ryan, spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Affairs, which oversees Atlantic City under a 2016 state law.
“This important work remains a priority,” Ryan said. “And today’s auction is part of the continuing effort by the city and state to combat blight, get properties back on the tax rolls, rebuild neighborhoods with attractive, affordable housing options and improve the overall quality of life for Atlantic City residents by spurring investment in the community which will increase property values for homeowners.”
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The starting bid on some of the homes was as low as $5,000. The auctioneer called it “cheaper than a car” after starting higher but decreasing the amount until he found a bidder who bit. When a former bar on South Virginia Avenue went up on the block, he said “there might still be a bottle of vodka in there” to entice buyers.
Max Spann Jr., president of the auction company that shares his name, said the prices are “purely market-driven” and the properties go for whatever people will pay for them.
“It’s an opportunity to purchase one or multiple properties to renovate them and bring them back to the market,” Spann said.
Will Erb, president of the Sea Breeze Condo Association, went to the auction with a friend and neighbor who purchased a unit in the condo for $27,000 for his family, he said.
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He called it “a steal” since condos were going for around $47,000 last year and have jumped to $50,000 since.
While the majority of bidders in the room were investors, Erb said, he wants to see more residents, or at least people who want to become residents, at the auctions.
“Atlantic City needs families,” Erb said. “They need good-hearted Americans that love their properties.”