Lots by the lot: What happened after the PHA vacant property auctions?

When the Philadelphia Housing Authority held its second scattered-site property auction in December, Ainé Doley went to the sale in hopes of removing a property on her block from the list. Unable to do so, Doley watched as the property was sold for $11,000.

Less than a month later, Max Spann Real Estate & Auction Co. contacted Doley, notified her that the initial bidder had backed out and asked if she would be interested in purchasing the property as an alternate bidder.

“It’s funny because I wasn’t even the second bidder,” Doley said. “There were at least two, if not three [others]. I just left my name because I just had this feeling that no one really wanted that lot… and I was right.”

Robert Dann, executive vice president and chief operations officer of Max Spann, said bidders for some of the other nearly 500 properties sold at PHA’s November and December auctions have also backed out.

“Just a very few [bidders] have attempted to back out so our procedure is that we contact the alternate bidder,” Dann said. He added that the contract is binding, so any initial bidder who drops out loses their full, 10 percent deposit.

“When you’re selling this many properties, it’s not unusual for people to get cold feet,” Dann said

Vacant properties on West Rockland Street before and during demolition. One of the cleared lots was auctioned by PHA.  | courtesy of Aine Doley
(Vacant properties on West Rockland Street before and during demolition. One of the cleared lots was auctioned by PHA.  | courtesy of Aine Doley)

The lot Doley is interested in is located on the Germantown block where she and her sister, Emaleigh Doley, have lived most of their lives. The sisters are active in the community and hope to work with a local school and church to turn the lot into a community garden, but the two are not ready to spend $11,000 to secure the property, Doley said.

When she asked to negotiate on the price after being contacted as an alternate bidder, Doley was instructed to contact PHA.

Dann said Max Spann will not accept anything amount below what the property initially went for at auction.

“If it doesn’t sell [to an alternate bidder], we’ll just sell it at a future auction,” he said.

Dann said a “good number” but not quite a majority of the sales have closed, and PHA said they are not yet ready to release any final numbers. The two groups will likely partner for a third scattered site property auction in the spring or summer.

“I guess it’s better [for PHA] to get rid of these properties because PHA has taken no interest in actually maintaining them or keeping them up,” Doley said. “Maybe if they’re in the hands of private landlords, whether or not they’re good landlords, they could be held more accountable.”

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