The $1.75 eBay house: Foreclosure bargains aplenty

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For months, I've been hearing rumors and tales about incredibly cheap housing in high-foreclosure markets. In Detroit, for example, a house that cost $65,000 in 2006 recently sold for $1, and it's apparently fairly common to find houses in the $300 range.

As in the case of the $1.75 house that Joanne Smith bought in Saginaw, Michigan, many of these super-cheap foreclosures come with a tax bill that is in arrears, but even with the $850 in back taxes and cleanup costs that she will end up having to pay, she's gotten an incredible deal.

Searching through various foreclosure listings online, I decided to check out some of the places where I've lived. In Roanoke, Virginia, where my wife and I briefly contemplated buying a home, the cheapest place I found was running about $1,000. Meanwhile, in Blacksburg, where my wife and I worked, even HUD homes used to run in the $140,000 range. Right now, "motivated sellers" and banks are dropping properties at fire-sale prices.

Of course, to find the really cheap houses, I had to wander around eBay. While I didn't see any foreclosed homes going for $1.75, there were quite a few in the $1,000-$4,000 range. For example, I saw a 3 bedroom, 1 bath with full basement and 1-car garage going for $2,125 in South Bend, Indiana; in Cleveland, Ohio, there's a 3-bedroom, 1 bath currently at $4,062; and a semi-gutted "handyman special" in Welch, West Virginia is holding steady at $1,610.

Of course, all of these houses need a lot of work, and there's no accounting for neighborhood quality. Still, if you're enthralled by the idea of grabbing your part of the American dream but don't have enough money for a down payment on a house in your town, you could probably do a lot worse. Welch, West Virginia, here I come!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He's looking for foreclosed houses in the Bronx, but is a little worried about what he might find.

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