Lynettra Artis had been looking at Plaza Lofts 22 and One Independence Plaza — two condominium buildings at University Town Center in Hyattsville — since the buildings had been built. The 28-year-old lawyer from Riverdale knew she wanted to live there, but the buildings had been mired in a complex foreclosure.
“I was just waiting, waiting, waiting,” she said.
Then Resource Real Estate, which purchased the unsold portions of the two buildings from Wells Fargo, announced it was going to auction off 33 individual units at starting bids ranging from $99,000 to $245,000.
Held in one of the hotel’s ballrooms, Sunday’s auction at the Greenbelt Marriott appeared to attract more first-time homebuyers than investors. Even so, the bidders were a cautious group, reluctant to drive up the prices.
Some units sold for only $1,000 over their minimum bid price. The two units that started with a minimum bid of $99,000 went for $117,000 and $111,000. The most expensive unit sold was a two-bedroom, 2½ bath loft at Plaza Lofts that went for $256,000. The last asking price for that unit had been $668,879.
“We want to give the consumer a once in a lifetime chance to set their price on these home,” Stephanie Wilkinson, partner in Impact Real Estate Solutions, the firm that conducted the auction.
Artis, whose only other auction experience had been at a date auction, toured the buildings three times before she narrowed her list to five units she intended to bid on.
Despite her lack of experience, Artis had a game plan going into the auction. She had attended Saturday’s practice session held by Impact. She knew to sit in the front row, right in front of the podium so that the auctioneer wouldn’t miss her bid. She made sure to speak to his assistants so they were aware which units she planned to bid on. She also brought her mother, a real estate agent, and her aunt along to help her. Despite her preparations, she was extremely anxious before the auction started.
“I am very nervous,” she said. “My stomach is in knots.”
Artis bid first on unit 209, a one-bedroom, 1½ bath condo at Plaza Lofts. She opened the bid at $135,000 and raised a couple of times before dropping out. She tried again on unit 208, but dropped out on that one, too.
“I ended up talking it over with mom,” Artis said. “She was telling me, ‘You don’t want to push yourself past your limit. You know what you want. Stick with it.’ Every time I leaned over, it was her saying, ‘Do you think you can? Are you okay with it? Are you sure?’
“I couldn’t have done this by myself. I felt that I could easily get swept into a bidding war that I was not ready or prepared for. I only had the fortitude to keep myself in check because she was there to say, ‘Keep yourself in check.’”
Artis almost missed bidding on the next unit on her wish list because the auctioneer unexpectedly jumped ahead in the order. Fortunately, her mother had been paying attention and nudged her. Artis was determined not to let this one get away.
“I saw how people were bidding on properties before it,” she said. “If I don’t bid on something now, it’s possible that I’ll get into a bloodletting. . . . I went for it. I was going to go and go and go until I got it.”
After a bit of back and forth with another bidder, she raised to $135,000. When no one would go higher, the auctioneer said, “Sold to bidder No. 374!” and Artis became a homeowner.
“I was elated. I wanted to bow,” she said.
The auction took less than an hour, but Artis didn’t leave the hotel until nearly two hours after her winning bid. There was a 47-page sales contract to sign and financing to work out. None of that, however, could damp the first-time homebuyer’s joy.
“I don’t think that it has fully hit me yet, but I am so, so happy,” she said. “I now have my home, the one that I wanted.”
Artis didn’t hesitate at all when asked if she would buy a home through an auction again.
“If I saw this opportunity again, if it wasn’t me, I would definitely coax a friend to do it,” she said. “This was an opportunity to get something at such a bargain price.”