By all accounts, the nation is still in the midst of a foreclosure crisis. In 2010, foreclosure activity increased in 149 of the nation's 206 metropolitan areas with a population of 200,000 or more, according the foreclosure tracking company RealtyTrac. Last year, more than 2.8 million homes in the U.S. had foreclosure filings.
But one man's loss is another's gain. Foreclosed homes are often up for sale at bargain prices. Some businesses and property owners have used that to their advantage and are finding ways to turn a profit on properties that have depreciated in value and have been repossessed by banks.
Auction.com held more than 600 auctions of foreclosed properties last year. "It's truly what we call the perfect storm of opportunity," said Trent Ferris, the company's vice president of auctions.
On the last Sunday in January, a few hundred people filled a ballroom at a hotel in Midtown Manhattan to bid on more than 140 foreclosed homes in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. As an auctioneer called out for bids at a blistering pace, the homes sold for a fraction of their fair market value. Each auction took about one minute, and Auction.com received a fee of 5 percent of the sale price on each house.
"At this particular point in time, nothing good comes from the empty house that's sitting there," Ferris said. "So by giving people the opportunity to buy at auction price to turn that empty house back into a home is absolutely phenomenal."
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