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Buy, buy again

Going once? Going twice? Going as many times as it takes to snag a house at a foreclosure auction?

Buying real estate this way can take persistence, as unsuccessful bidders could see Thursday night at the latest mass auction in Modesto.

Rama Prasad of Riverbank said he was willing to spend $300,000 for a five-bedroom house on Portrait Court in that same town. He lost to a bidder who pushed the price to $342,500.

"If I get it, I get it," Prasad had said just before the auction started. "If I don't, I will wait it out. I'm expecting the market to cool down further."

Afterward, he said he might be back for future auctions.

That's exactly what many people do, said Dave Webb, co-owner of Hudson & Marshall, the Dallasbased auction company that put on the event.

"We get repeat customers," he said. "If they got outbid (Thursday) night, they'll be back again in November."

That's when Hudson & Marshall will hold another Modesto auction. The events are piling up this year as lenders try to unload properties from the rising number of people who could not make their payments.

The 60 or so homes available Thursday brought prices ranging from $95,000 to $600,000. Webb said he did not know how much money the lenders will recover should the sales be finalized, but he said his auctions generally provide bargains to bidders.

"If they pick up a house for 80 cents on the dollar, they're doing pretty well," Webb said.

The company warned that many of the houses need repairs and urged auction patrons not to bid on properties they didn't inspect.

Hudson & Marshall did not set minimum bids, as some auction companies do. The firm did require buyers to pay it a fee equal to 5 percent of the purchase price.

About 300 people turned out for Thursday's auction, held at Modesto Centre Plaza. That was a few hundred less than another company's auction there last month, but still a sign that this is a popular means of making real estate deals.

The audience had a mix of investors, who might buy several houses to rent or resell, and people looking for a place to live.

People in both categories said they researched the auction process and came prepared.

"I know what to expect," said Dennis DeCosta of Tracy, who has bought, fixed up and resold several homes. "I think you have to know the market, know the area."

Ray Abarca of Merced, a first-time auction patron seeking a single house, said he heard of some people bidding sight unseen.

"I wouldn't be able to put money into something I've never seen before," he said, "but whatever works for them, I guess."

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or 578-2385.

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