Another Day at the Auction – 3 Houses, 3 Tales

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Is it really true that bad things happen in threes?  You hear it all the time.  If a celebrity dies you’re certain to catch someone saying that two more are about to drop dead.  But there’s a lot of good stuff that comes in threes, like:

  • The Three Musketeers
  • The Star Wars trilogy (the first trilogy, the second trilogy was awful)
  • The Three Stooges

On January 5th, our company bought three houses at a trustee’s sale (auction).   All were occupied by the former owner.  Let’s hope the bad things happening in threes theory doesn’t hold up with real estate deals.  After all, you never know what to expect when you buy an occupied home at a trustee’s sale or auction. 

What’s most interesting to me is how each of these homeowners chose to deal with the circumstances.  Once we buy an occupied home our standard operating procedure is to start the eviction with our attorney AND leave a note on the door the day of the sale that reads:

Dear Mr. or Mrs. Homeowner, I’m very sorry to inform you that we purchased your home at a trustee’s sale today.  We are now the legal owner of the property.  I was asked to drop by to see if we could make arrangements with you.  Please call me as soon as possible.  If we can work something out quickly my firm is prepared to offer you cash for the keys to the house.

How did these three homeowners respond to this letter?  Well, it was kind of like the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good – 753 W. San Angelo

This 2,600 square foot home is just a mile from our office.  We liked it because it sat on a corner, cul-de-sac lot and had a pool.  Within 24 hours of leaving our note Laureen called me.  She was a nurse and had fallen behind on her mortgage because that was what her bank told her she had to do in order to get a loan modification.

Larueen was very proud of her home.  It was spotless.  She just had the yard professionally landscaped and the pool was crystal clear.  And here’s where it gets good – Larueen’s roommate is also a nurse with very good income and credit.  The roommate wanted to buy the house from us.  We got her qualified, executed a purchase contract and opened escrow.  We close the end of this month.  It’s a win-win.  Laureen and her roommate get to stay in the house and we make a nice profit without having to do any repairs.

 The Bad – 4227 S. Cozy

I didn’t need to leave a note on Luis’ door.  He left one for me with his phone number that said ANY INQUIRIES CALL LUIS.  The home was locked up tight but I could see inside.  It was trashed.  I sent him a text message and he called me right back.  He said he’d be out in three days.  Luis kept his promise but left the house a mess.  It took us a week and over $20,000 to make it shine.  It’s been listed for two weeks now and we’ve had several showings.

The Ugly – 3687 S. Newport

My nickname for Bert, the former owner of 3687 S. Newport, is Cleopatra.  He is the Queen of Denial.  Bert finally called me after the court served him his eviction notice.  He refused to believe he had lost his house to foreclosure.  At first he told me that he didn’t know about the foreclosure – then he said he had the cash to buy the house from us.  Neither was true.  It was just a game he was playing to give himself more time.  When I showed up at his (our) house yesterday with the Constable and a locksmith he acted surprised (that’s him in the picture with the Constable).  The home was full of furniture, clothing and personal items.  Not a single box was packed.  We changed the locks and told him he’d have to make an appointment with me another day to come get his stuff.

What does this all mean?  I guess it means if you’re buying an occupied home at the auction then be prepared for anything. 

I read in a book once that human behavior is very predictable.  Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Luis trashed his house because he was mad at the bank.  Or that Bert chose to bury his head in the sand rather than face reality.  But Laureen and her roommate – that’s like the equivalent of a hole in one in golf.  If only those kind of deals came along in threes.

About Author

Marty (G+) is the Chief Financial Officer for Rising Sun Capital Group, LLC, a real estate investment firm based in Gilbert, AZ. His firm purchases homes at the courthouse steps and public REO auctions. They have two exit strategies, either fix and flip or seller financing.


  1. What I want to know is… What happened to Bert’s stuff? Did he ever come get it? Have you had to move it to a storage unit or just toss it? I like Laureen’s story, sucks that she lost her home but cool that her roommate was able to purchase it.

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