For sale: Homes for $1,000

Looking for a fixer-upper? Detroit has a deal for you.

The bankrupt city is auctioning off vacant properties at BuildingDetroit.org, part of the beleaguered metropolis' plan to battle urban blight. The homes will start with bids of $1,000, with a new property going up for auction each day.

If it sounds like a dream, then you'd better read the fine print. For one, BuildingDetroit cautions that "the rehab cost will often cost more than the winning bid price." While the homes often look cheerful from the outside, photos posted with the listings show some major problems, such as missing furnaces and water heaters and ripped-out kitchens.

"We are moving aggressively to take these abandoned homes and get families living in them again," Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement. "There are a lot of people who would love to move into many of our neighborhoods. Knowing that other people are going to be buying and fixing up the other vacant homes at the same time will make it a lot easier for them to make that commitment."

BuildingDetroit didn't immediately return a request for comment.

The homes are located in East English Village, a neighborhood that CNN Money described as "well kept" in 2012. The auctions will start on May 5 with the sale of a 1941, 1,400-square foot, three-bedroom home. (It needs a new furnace and water heater.)

Detroit is trying to dissuade speculators through a series of other agreements, such as a requirement that the buyer have a certificate of occupancy and an occupant in the house within six months of closing. If buyers fail to meet that and other conditions, the city will take back the property. On top of that, out-of-state buyers aren't invited: Only Michigan residents or businesses can make a bid.

For Detroit, the auctions might prove to be a small yet important step toward battling blight. The huge city, which spreads across 139 square miles, has been scarred by vacant and derelict buildings, thanks to population decline and foreclosures. The Detroit Blight Removal Task Force is currently working on a plan to eliminate the city's roughly 80,000 blighted structures as quickly as possible.

"We're going to fix up entire neighborhoods at once," said Mayor Duggan. "It's important that everyone who buys one of these houses is serious about getting them rehabbed and occupied."

  • Aimee Picchi

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