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Woman watches foreclosed home sold at auction

Every Friday at the Franklin County Courthouse the sheriff's department holds an auction to sell the county's foreclosed properties, most of them are houses. WOSU attended an auction earlier this month.

Thousands of homes in Ohio were foreclosed on this year as part of the mortgage meltdown that helped cripple the nation's economy. So it might not come as a surprise that between now and the end of November about 1,000 foreclosed properties - most of them houses - will be put up for sale at the Franklin County Sheriff's auction. Judy Shulze from Columbus attended the October Tenth auction.

"I lost my home. Why did you come down here today? To see it get sold," Shulze said.

Shulze was one of about thirty people at that auction. Most people, though, were not there to watch a property sell - they were there to purchase them.

Sherry Dufford is a Franklin County Sheriff's Department account clerk. She said for the most part mortgage companies do the buying.

"Some Fridays we can have maybe a few third party purchasers that buy them. The majority of the time it is the plaintiff in the case who buys these properties back at sale," Dufford said.

Dorronda Wright was one of those buyers. She attends foreclosure auctions regularly and bids on properties for her law firm's clients: mortgage companies.

"I did notice there was a lot of homes selling. There was not as many as usual and most of the plaintiffs recoup their properties. There were not a lot of individual buyers," Wright said.

On this day 158 foreclosed properties were for sale. Sixty-eight percent sold. When asked if that was about average, Dufford said it's hard to say because it depends on how many properties are on the auction list each week.

The numbers do vary from week to week according to the sheriff's website, but not by much. It lists anywhere from 177 properties one week to 230 properties the next.

Property appraisals, though, at the October Tenth auction, ran the gamut - from $4,000 to $2.3 million.

Bids on properties open at two-thirds of the appraisal price. And most of the time, Dufford said, banks buy back the house for the opening bid. But she said there is the occasional bidding war.

"It's usually a third party that's bidding against the plaintiff in the case. Ever so often we will get a particular property that we will have multiple people bidding on them," Dufford said.

Auctions that feature foreclosed properties tend to attract bargain hunters. Garland Ferguson, of Columbus, hopes to make some of these bargain hunters his clients. Ferguson owns Central-Ohio-Wholesale-Deals-dot-com. His website touts access to "below market" properties and he's trying to increase his buyers list. He approached people leaving the auction, passing out business cards.

"In today's economic conditions there's still people buying houses even though the real estate market in Columbus doesn't look that great to a lot of people who are retail buyers. Investors are buying. So, in order to build a buyers list I come down here because I know there's people still buying houses and that way I can build my buyers list real quick," Ferguson said.

The woman who lost her home, Judy Shulze, is a 58-year-old data entry clerk. She said a variety of circumstances caused her to fall behind on her house payments, landing her in foreclosure: her husband became ill and died; she lost her job and took a big pay cut at the next one.

"And that's basically when the trouble started," Shulze said.

She said she tried working it out with the bank, but she said they wanted two mortgage payments up front and she could not afford that.

"Lived in my home for 30 years. It should've been paid for, but circumstances you just can't always do it that way," she said.

Shulze's home was placed up for bid a couple of times before this auction - giving her a little more time to figure out what to do next. But this day she did not get the break she had hoped for, the house sold for $61,000.

"Well your home is gone now. What are you going to do? I'll move in with my son for a while. It's about all I can do," Shulze said.