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RTC property auction draws bargain hunters

Thanks to Uncle Sam, LeRoy Rogers and Cynthia Lee of Miami and Haines City residents Timothy and Kandy Corbiere are now neighbors in Winter Haven. The unlikely neighbors are one of the few positive notes to come out of the multibillion-dollar savings and loan crisis.

To unload thousands of properties the government has assumed from dissolved thrifts, it is auctioning off some residential properties to people who qualify under the Affordable Housing Guidelines. In Florida, some 250 homes have been sold to low-income buyers in a weeklong series of auctions that concluded Saturday in Tampa.

More than 600 people crammed the ballroom of the Westshore Marriott Hotel to witness the auctioning of 50 homes in West Central Florida by the Resolution Trust Corp., the agency charged with disposing of the assets of failed S&Ls.

About 320 bidders registered for the opportunity to bid on the properties, which sold for close to $1.3-million.

For Mary Dixon and her boyfriend John Sykes, the RTC auction provided a home. The Largo couple purchased the very first home auctioned, a three-bedroom, two-bath house on Taylor Lake Place in Largo, for $25,000.

"I never thought I could afford a house," said Dixon, who tempered her obvious enthusiasm by observing that the home will have to be fixed up inside and out before it is livable.

Some bidders, like Rogers and Lee, came from other parts of the state just for the opportunity to do something they never thought they'd be able to do _ buy a home. They had gone to a Miami auction, but were not adequately prepared. This time they were.

The couple were the high bidders on a triplex on 33rd Street NW in Winter Haven. The bidding was fairly heavy for the building, which houses three two-bedroom, one and a half bath units. Lee and Rogers outlasted the other bidders at $42,000.

Not 12 feet away from their property is an identical triplex. The Corbieres, backup bidders on the first triplex, landed the second one for $40,000.

Corbiere said the county has the triplexes assessed at $71,400 and that the bank had the two listed for sale at $56,000 and $59,000.

The camaraderie shared by these previous strangers was echoed throughout the day. People cheered for successful bidders. Bidders cheered, hugged and even danced when their bids prevailed.

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