SOLD: A four-bedroom house, complete with fireplace, sun deck and master bedroom Jacuzzi. Price: $7,000.
The bargain house was one of about 250 auctioned last weekend in Houston by the Veterans Administration as part of a sale of repossessed residential and investment properties.
The sale netted $5.7 million, and high bids on the properties averaged just over $21,000.
The lowest price was for a three-bedroom home that went for $3,000, while the most expensive was a four-bedroom house that sold for $87,000, according to Sally LePla, spokeswoman for Larry Latham Auctioneers Inc.
Two other home auctions have been held in Houston during the past few weeks, and another is planned next month.
"We've not been able to sell them," Mike McReaken, a loan guaranty officer for the VA, said of the repossessed properties. The 250 Houston homes sold were seized by foreclosures blamed on falling energy prices and other economic problems that have plagued the city since the early 1980s, he said.
"We're so heavily tied to the oil industry that when the oil industry suffered it set the city back," McReaken said. He said people who worked in the energy business and who bought homes at the peak of the oil boom have been the most affected.
"The VA guarantees 60 percent of the loan or $27,500, whichever is less," LePla said. "The lenders usually fund four times the amount of the guarantee. And the property is auctioned to help the government recoup the amount of insurance collected by the lending agency."
The auction attracted about 1,000 bidders on Saturday and 1,500 Sunday. Each buyer had to pay at least $2,000 cash or a cashier's check, LePla said.
Bob Burns, a valve salesman who bought a three-bedroom house Saturday for $4,000, planned to charge the purchase on two Visa cards.
"There's no need to get a loan on the property," he said. Burns said he planned to use the home as rental property.
McReaken said the VA still has 4,200 other homes it needs to sell and will consider having another auction.
For the ninth year in a row, Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.) have introduced their Fair Housing Amendments Act, calling it "one of the unfinished pieces of business on the civil rights agenda."
The act would amend the fair housing segment of the 1968 Civil Rights Act to give the law greater enforcement powers and would add the disabled and families with children to the groups against whom discrimination is prohibited. The law forbids discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, and covers housing for rental, sale, marketing, financing and related activities.
Discrimination complaints now go first to Department of Housing and Urban Development-supervised conciliation sessions. If conciliation fails, the only other effective means of enforcing the law is through the courts, often a long, costly process, according to an announcement issued by Mathias' office. Of the more than 2 million cases of racial discrimination in housing that HUD estimates take place each year, only 4,500 are ever taken to HUD or state and local agencies "because of the lack of confidence citizens have in the existing conciliation process," Mathias said.
Under the proposed amendments, independent administrative law judges would hear cases and make decisions. The judges, who would be attorneys employed by HUD, would be empowered to order "equitable relief" and assess actual and punitive damages.
A HUD study shows that families with children are barred from or restricted in three-fourths of all rental housing in the United States, according to the Mathias announcement. Another study found that more than 25 million adults now have mental or physical disabilities, a number that is expected to grow to 32 million by the end of the decade.
For the first time in seven years, the typical American family could afford at the end of 1985 to buy an average-priced home, a real estate trade group has calculated.
The National Association of Realtors said its affordability index topped 100 percent in December for the first time since December 1978.
The index reached 101 percent, meaning a family earning the median income of $27,940 had enough income to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home selling for $74,800.
"More than half the nation's 63 million families can now afford to purchase a median-priced home. This is encouraging news for America's home buyers, home sellers, the real estate industry and the many segments of this country's economy that benefit from a strong housing industry," said Clark E. Wallace, president of the Realtors association.
Wallace said the association's affordability index was still far from its peak in the early 1970s, when the index was above 150 percent. But he said things had improved dramatically from the low point in the early 1980s, when the index dropped below 70 percent.
Falling mortgage rates, steady gains in personal income and moderate increases in home prices were credited with bringing about the improvement.
IN THE BUSINESS. . . George Hyman Construction Co. recently announced that it had submitted the low bid, $38,940,000, among six firms seeking to build the new Canadian Embassy at 501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW and that construction is scheduled to begin next month. The Canadian Embassy said that information is correct, but that neither Hyman nor any of the other five bidders has won the contract yet. Canadian officials in Ottawa are now considering the bids, an embassy spokesman said. . . Winn Group of Denver is planning to build nearly 900 single-family homes, 1,000 town houses, a 300-unit high-rise apartment building, a country club, a 22-acre lake, and bicycle and jogging trails at a development called Lake Arbor, a 750-acre complex just east of the Capital Beltway near the Capital Centre. . . Marriott Corp. has started construction on another in its line of Courtyard by Marriott moderately priced hotels, this one at the Parkway Trade Center on Herndon Parkway . . . Reston Land Corp., Reston's developer, said that by the end of 1985 the planned community had 6.8 million square feet of office and high-tech space, an increase of 2.3 million square feet in two years.
PERSONNEL FILE . . . David M. Hassler has been promoted to vice president in the Washington office of Spaulding & Slye, a commercial real estate manager and broker. . . Savage/Fogarty Cos., a real estate development firm based in Alexandria, has appointed Charles J. Barrow as executive vice president. . . Walker & Dunlop, a mortgage banking and commercial realty firm, has named three new vice presidents: David D. Kent, Arthur L. Richmond and Douglas G. Waters . . . Barnes, Morris & Pardoe, which leases commercial property, has promoted J. Michael Curtis to vice president of sales.