‘Great deal’ at home foreclosure auction turns out to be red hot

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Larry Barszewski

Published September 10, 2019


A home foreclosure auction turned into a fire sale that nearly burned the winning bidder.

Tony Stern thought he’d made a steal when he bought a $432,834 Palm Beach County home for $235,600 in July.


He didn’t know the four-bedroom, three-bath Mediterranean home had burned down just days before the county auctioned it off.

When it comes to foreclosure and tax-deed auctions, where property is put on the block for failure to pay taxes, county officials say it’s “buyer beware.”

Stern had already put down an $11,780 deposit to secure his bid and was about to pay the rest of the bill when he found out the Loxahatchee home had been destroyed.

There was no way he was going to lose any more money in the deal, said Stern, who went to court to see if he could get back the money he’d already paid.

Stern got a reprieve from Palm Beach Circuit Court Judge G. Joseph Curley, who ordered the county in August to refund Stern his full deposit.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” Stern said. “This could have gone either way ... You’ve got to be very lucky with the judge you get."

A home at 7355 Mandarin Blvd. in Loxahatchee burned down days before it was auctioned off by Palm Beach County.

It’s not like Stern is a novice when it comes to auctions. He runs PropertyOnion.com, which is made up of investors helping investors looking into real estate transactions. He said he has been doing real estate investments for 35 years.

“It just shows you that sometimes even the educators can get smashed a bit,” Stern said.

Stern, who is from Boca Raton, said the Loxahatchee property was a bit out of his comfort zone, so he drove by it the week before the auction to take a personal look and everything appeared fine, he said. It burned down the next day, he said.

Stern lucked out in being able to get his money back, but the investor in him isn’t happy.

“I’m really upset, because it was a fantastic property,” Stern said. “That was $200,000 worth of profits for our company that went up in flames.”

Now somebody else will have a chance to bid on the burned-out 1.38-acre property. Curley ordered it be put up for auction again Sept. 5.