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Need to sell a condo quickly? Try an auction

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"We have open house every Sunday afternoon for three successive weeks," Williams says. "We advise buyers to research the market personally and get very comfortable that their judgment of value is solid. They might want to bring in a building inspector, because ultimately, due diligence is the buyer's responsibility. If it's going to be your house, you need to be doing the checking."

For prospective buyers, Wallace says, that could mean shelling out serious money for an inspection of a residence they may never own. But, he says, for the one who makes the highest bid, that money is well-spent.

"At most auctions, when the gavel goes down, the sale is final," Wallace says. "When you're buying a home by traditional means, you have a 20-day contingency period to bring a home inspector in, look at the title report and so on. But when you buy at auction, there is no contingency. That's a big difference."

A buyer's research should include legal issues as well as the property's physical condition, says Helio De La Torre, an attorney with Siegfried, Rivera, Lerner, De La Torre & Sobel in Miami, who focuses on condominium association issues.

"Condo sales and purchases are subject to the approval and restrictions of the presiding condo association," he says. "And you can be sure all of them have restrictions. Some have restrictions regarding children, some have parking restrictions, and still others are restricted to residents 55 and over. So if you are considering buying real estate at auction, you should definitely consult an attorney."

The condo association's budget also needs to be investigated, De La Torre says, and an attorney should find out whether there are existing litigations or special assessments against it.

"Make sure the title is clean," he says, "and know what the conditions of the auction are."

Online and beyond
Many traditional auctioneer services now offer Internet auctions, as well. Responding to the trend's popularity, US Condo Exchange, an international multiple listing service for condos, plans to have auction capability up and running on its Web site by the first quarter of 2007, says James Haft, co-founder of the Web site with Richard Swerdlow.

The ranks of involuntary condo owners are growing, he says -- primarily by would-be investors who now find the market has changed, leaving them holding units they meant to sell for a quick profit.

"It would work something like eBay," Haft says. "People would pay to advertise on the site. The core business model is to act as an information exchange. We believe we will be able to do a very good business."

In addition, he says, US Condo Exchange is in discussions with a network to broadcast on TV live condo auctions, in a format Haft describes as a sort of interactive condo reality show where technologically proficient viewers could place bids using their laptops.

Haft says this is still under negotiation with Comcast -- just not finalized yet.

"That," he says, "would open up a whole new forum for condo sales."'s corrections policy -- Posted: Oct. 26, 2006
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