New Website Helps Buyers at Real Estate Auctions

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A new website, AuctionTipSheet.com, provides free tip sheets and bidding advice to Californians who want to buy homes at real estate auctions. Developed by an economist, the website helps buyers check the property descriptions provided by auction companies--which are often at odds with public records.

A new website, AuctionTipSheet.com, provides free tip sheets and bidding advice to Californians who want to buy homes at real estate auctions.    

Economist Lori Alden developed the website after observing that the property descriptions provided by the auction companies are often different from those in the official assessment records. "Some auction websites are riddled with discrepancies," she says.

To help buyers check information, the website provides tip sheets that highlight differences between the auction company's data and the official public records. "It could be that the public records are wrong," Alden cautions. "For example, if a bedroom was added without a permit, the public records may not show it."

But some of the descriptions on auction websites defy credulity. "One property in Anaheim was described as having 38.5 bathrooms," Alden says. "That doesn't sound right."

Alden urges buyers to inspect properties carefully before bidding. "You have to be careful," she says. "If the auction company mistakenly tells you it's a three-bedroom house, you won't get your deposit back if you win the auction and it turns out to be a one-bedroom house."

Alden also urges buyers to keep an eye on rival bidders. "Some auction companies let the auctioneers place bids on behalf of the sellers," says Alden. "It could be that the person you're bidding against is just pumping up the price."

The website also provides useful links, like the one to the Megan's Law website which allows buyers to see if any registered sex offenders live nearby.

Alden hopes the website will help buyers make better decisions. "People get worked up at auctions," she says. "I just want them to do their homework before bidding."

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LORI ALDEN

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