Woman Buys House For $1.75 On EBay

Joanne Smith from Chicago now owns an abandoned home in Saginaw, Michigan, and she only paid $1.75 for it on eBay. Well, there’s also $850 in “back taxes and yard cleanup cost,” reports MSNBC. Smith says she hasn’t seen the house yet or visited the town, but we’re thinking hello summer home! Or maybe it’s a good place to put the parents when they retire.

The company that auctioned the home wasn’t available for comment, so we’ll be curious to see whether they try to squirm out of the deal. Like, oh, maybe saying a bunch of Canadianized killer bees moved in.

“$1.75 eBay bid gets abandoned Michigan home” [MSNBC.com] (Thanks to Scott!)
(Photo: MSNBC)


Edit Your Comment

  1. RStewie says:

    What ever happened to the bee story?

    Also, what a great find!

    • SomeoneGNU says:


      Especially since *SOME DAY* that land will be worth something. Buy low, sell high! That’s what my pappy always said.

    • crazyasianman says:

      looking back on that article, apparently the RV dealership finally went through with the deal (and fairly professionally at that point) after an outpouring of bad press and mass emails from supporters. the OP got an answer from the original salesmen/poster of the listing that apparently he’d mistaken the buy it now price for the reserve price.

  2. James says:

    So after she pays the taxes, is that it? She doesn’t pay anything else?

    • downwithmonstercable says:

      @James: Closing costs on the loan? har har har…

    • Aisley says:


      “So after she pays the taxes, is that it? She doesn’t pay anything else?”

      Uh, James, uh, did you take a look at the picture?

    • EdnaLegume says:

      @James: until she sells it she’s responsible for property taxes and insurance on the property. Other than that and general maintenance, (ie. sewer fees, etc.), it’s hers.

  3. Khuluna says:

    I too am curious about this. The boy and I have been talking about getting a house, and this would be an INCREDIBLE deal on a first home.

    • downwithmonstercable says:

      @Khuluna: There are stories all over the place about foreclosed homes in Detroit selling for a couple hundred bucks.. and they look awesome compared to this dump.

  4. Ns1 says:

    404 bargain not found

    1.75 + back taxes

    then eventually property taxes. not to mention 100% the entire house has been stripped of everything of value, so she has to redo the whole house.

    is she planning to live in it? if so WHY the neighborhood is clearly crap.

    is she planning to rent it? good freaking luck! after remodeling everything, unless she rents it out ASAP, it will just be pillaged repeatedly by looters.

    She just got the worst deal of her life.

  5. intellivised says:

    I’m from the Tri-Cities, I grew up in between Midland, MI and Saginaw.

    Saginaw is often referred to as “Saginasty”. Driving downtown Saginaw during the day looks like a neutron bomb went off.

    There are some perks though! Saginaw has one of the best hobby shops ever (Roger’s Hobbies FTW) and the poorly ‘could collapse at any time’ Zilwaukee bridge. Also: Some pretty suite lumber baron era architecture and a confusing myriad of one way streets that make any trip to the mall/Meijer’s/somewhere else an adventure!

    • Sinflux says:

      @intellivised: Hey me too, I was born in Saginaw, lived in Birch Run.

      I still say Flint is worse.

      • nicless says:

        @Sinflux: As a man from Flint, I say that if you get a house in Flint, they should pay YOU. Sooooooo happy to be moving to Texas.

        • gareki.ga.haikyo.ni says:

          Texas? You sure do know how to bring the lulz, nicless.

          That’s like selling a Yugo, buying a Geo and being GLAD about it!

    • Jesse says:


      I was born and lived in Carrollton until I was in first grade (1990). Although I’ve only been back a couple times, I would definitely say that Omaha is far better.

    • PermanentStar says:

      @intellivised: I’m from Bay City, (though I live in BFE, Virginia now) any relatives have told me that there are people going around torching abandoned homes that you wouldn’t take if they gave you money…I’d hate to see the neighborhood this one is in, but hey, at least it’s one less the fire dept will have to put out.

    • PermanentStar says:

      damn. sorry, that’s “and relatives…” not any. Sorry.

  6. SuryaGlabrio says:

    Bit of a fixer upper, I’d say.

  7. MightyCow says:

    I’d say she paid a dollar seventy too much.

  8. Crazytree says:

    she may have just bought herself $50,000 in legal fees if the city/county/municipality condemns the property, sues her for nuisance, etc.

    • lockdog says:

      @Crazytree: Most cities will give a new owner a break on citations for 30 days or so. I’d say she’ll be out the back taxes, property taxes, and about $10 grand in demolition costs (I’m assuming $6k for demo and $4k for asbestos abatement). Still, the empty lot is probably worth $15k if the market returns to normal.

  9. MayorBee says:

    She snaked me at the last second! There were 6 seconds left on the clock, then I hit refresh and I was the high bidder! And then, assured the new home was going to be mine, I hit F5 one last, fateful time. “NO!” I screamed in anguish. How could this happen? I demand a do-over! After it took me 5 days to hitchhike from Saginaw, how could she just come and snake the house from me?

    Nah, not really. Hope she enjoys the house.

  10. slowinthefastlane says:

    I wonder what the comps were… $2.00? $1.50?

  11. EmperorOfCanada says:

    Just confirmed! Counterfeit houses made in China now being sold in the US! Check the paint for lead.

  12. ShortBus says:

    Old news ’round these parts. You can buy them by the gross in Detroit: [www.waynecounty.com]

  13. narf says:

    She’s overpaying! But imagine the huge gains she could realize. Why, at $5, that’s an increase of over 180%! 6% listing commission, no problem!

    Anyways, the real estate market really is that bad in MI. This one went for $1, and that was with the bank paying the back taxes too.

  14. MyPetFly says:

    Canadianized killer bees?

    “Back off from our hives or we’ll sorta’ sting you a little, eh?”

  15. downwithmonstercable says:

    What’s really sad is she was the winner out of eight bids. You’d think the land alone would be worth at LEAST like a thousand bucks or something.

  16. battra92 says:

    Hmm, interesting. I think this is appropriate.

  17. anker says:

    I live on “the other side of the tracks” from this house about five miles over on the west side. This house is on the east side. People who are not from the east side do not go to the east side… Ever. You will get shot. This area is the serious “hood” of Saginaw.

    She will never be able to do anything with this home. I’m sure that all of the copper and anything else worth stealing is already gone. The siding is probably next. If she is looking to fix it up, yet not reside there, they will just steal everything she puts into it again and again.

    This is why it was so cheap in the first place. People around here just want out.

    It’s not a matter of if she will get shot over there, it’s a matter of when.

    • @anker: Agreed. The wire/pipes/fixtures probably went within one week. I live near Newark, NJ, where they literally steal the manhole covers. What gets me is how little money they get for all the damage they do. You have to now find contractors who will install in this area, and keep it safe. As to those who say the land is worth something, you have to look at the neighborhood. If the whole thing went for 1.75, I think the property right now is less than the taxes. And good luck waiting for someone to buy it up. They envoke Eminent Domain, and you get “fair” market value.

    • Shadowman615 says:

      @anker: Yup. Stories of less-than-$100 houses in Michigan have been making the TV news magazine programs for a few months now. As the story goes, the homes are getting foreclosed, abandoned, and usually looted of piping and siding and whatever else within a few weeks. No bargains to be found there.

      Even in slightly “less rough” neighborhoods, the empty houses can become a real nuisance to neighboring residents.

  18. forgottenpassword says:

    Remove anything of value from it, then offer it to the local fire dept as a training house so they can burn it down. Then attempt to sell the land for something!

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      @forgottenpassword: there’s unlikely to be anything left of value in it. unless there’s a good market on the bees right now…..

      wait, i thought the bees only liked recreational vehicles?

  19. Ben_Q2 says:

    She could just dump the house and keep the land for later. I picked a number of places like this, not for that price but very low (under 10,000). I just waited/waiting it out.

    • Tmoney02 says:

      @Ben_Q2: I hope this is a long long term investment, as in pass it down to the grandchildren, because its going to take many years for Michigan to recover let alone prosper, and many years after that for the bad parts to begin to change.

  20. SidneySquid says:

    When I saw the headline, I thought “Gotta be in Michigan”. I live not far south of Flint, and it would not surprise me in the least if you could get the same sort of deal of a house in Flint.

    As Intellivised and Anker above said, those locations are going to be questionable at best, neighborhood-wise. Likely already stripped (people steal -manhole covers- here, nevermind the copper and aluminum!), you might get shot, and considering the economy in Michigan at the moment..

  21. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    But it’s an “up and coming neighborhood”! I’m sure it will be worth $500K, in about 10 years or so!


  22. ninjatoddler says:

    This sounds all too familiar to me like a typical horror flick. A person finds a great deal on a house/apartment and moves in only to run into …

  23. BeeBoo says:

    This is a teardown. She’s going to have to pay more than the $800 in back taxes to have it torn down and hauled off. So what will be left is an empty residential lot in a bad neighborhood full of empty houses and lots in a city with a declining population. It is not an asset, it is a pure expense. At least the taxes on an empty lot there can’t be very much and she lives out of state, it will be hard for them to collect. Eventually it will be seized for nonpayment of taxes.


  24. Tank says:

    the company CAN get out of it, for a real estate contract to be enforceable, it must be WRITTEN and SIGNED by all parties.

  25. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Maybe if she waits long enough (say, like a couple hundred years), Starbucks will buy it for the prime location?

  26. MoCo says:

    This is not really an outlandish deal. The city gets to collect property taxes from here on, and that’s a much better deal for the taxpayers than if the house sat empty.

    Baltimore City has had programs in the past where they sold homes for $1 to people who agreed to fix them up and live in them.

  27. GoVegan says:

    My guess is whoever bought that house will also need to sink a ton of money into it to make it habitable again. By the looks of those pictures, the buyer would probably be better off tearing down the house and make some cash by selling the lot.

  28. cheera says:

    You’d have to really hate your parents to throw them in Sagnasty.

  29. bbb111 says:

    The lot could be unusable or very expensive to make usable. Historic house, no potable water, cursed property (a family murdered there), no electricity, nice view of the sewage plant, downwind of a feedlot, toxic waste in the soil, underwater in the winter, easement for pipeline through the middle of the property, endangered species habitat, etc.

    Also, the deal might not go though – e-bay real estate auctions are an exception to the “your winning bid is a contract” rule. The real estate rules state: “The role of eBay Real Estate in the sale of properties is limited to hosting advertisements provided by sellers and providing a venue for communications about a property.” A winning bid is actually an offer that can be rejected.

    – – – –
    We have experienced property that is problematic:

    We inherited two small lots. One had no utilities available unless we paid for a bunch of poles and wire (over $100K) or run on generators (which a few lots in the area do), and drill a new well (probably not too expensive) and the kicker – there is no place on the property that is legal for a septic system (one end is too close to a river and the other end is uphill from neighbor’s wells). And another issue is that the area has Indian burial grounds and the tribe would have to inspect before any applications for building permits are accepted.
    The property had almost no value except to the neighbor who bought it for a few hundred. [we rejected a slightly higher offer from a slimeball who sells properties like this for $30,000 to people on the other side of the country as investments or to build “your dream retirement home.”]

    The other one had a small house, but the septic system was very old and broken – and it was illegal (when we tried to get a permit to replace it we found that the paperwork was never finished on the old one – We were then informed that the property could not meet the rules for a system under current code. Fortunately, they grandfathered the old one and allowed a replacement but it cost almost $20K for everything needed to meet code on the property. Then about a thousand hours of our labor and another $20K expenses to clean out the barns, remove the junk in the yard, replace the fences, regrade to prevent flooding, and fix up the property. – now it is rented for an amount slightly more than the taxes and loan payments for the costs.)

    Even inherited, these were not worth it. The second one will probably end up profitable, but for the time and money we put into it we could have gotten a more promising property in that area.

  30. coolkiwilivin says:

    Thank you Jennifer Granholm and you’re big government big taxes policy that have sunk the state of Michigan. Can’t wait for Obama to take this policy nationwide. Soon we’ll all be able to get homes for $1.75 thanks to Obama!

  31. blackmage439 says:

    I’m looking at this less as buying a house for $1.75, and more as purchasing the PROPERTY for $1.75. Although it’s a small lot, most pieces of property go for more than $1.75 an square foot. I say demolish the house and sell off the property in the future.

  32. Frank From Virginia says:

    I think Congress needs to drop that $700B bailout estimate.

  33. provolone says:

    In Rochester, NY I have seen a few houses sell for $100 in the past couple of months. Seems to be almost normal these days…

  34. Etoiles says:

    It seems to me like a pretty good deal for a parcel of land. And if you buy enough parcels of land for $2 + back taxes — still under $1000 total, plus the costs of demolishing whatever’s on them — seems to me that you could do pretty surprising things to a region by selling that land to someone with money (i.e., a large corporation) that will fight to get it re-zoned and used.

  35. Angryrider says:

    I wonder how much it would cost to get rid of the bees. I’m okay with bees, just not the killer variety.

  36. Gopher bond says:

    At least the chainlink fence is still up, at the very least you can go salvage that and use it to fence in your garden. That’s what I would do.

  37. Justifan says:

    theres a lot of journalism fail in this newstory from what i’ve seen over the last few days. whats the address, i want to see google maps! are the rest of the houses around it totally trashed? streetview?

  38. Jon R. says:

    I don’t think she got a great deal. The house itself is probably worth nothing, as in zero. She will have to pay to have it demolished and hauled away. Then she will have to build a new house in a bad neighborhood. Did anyone notice that the house is in foreclosure. To me, it sounds like there is a mortgage on the house. How is she going to get clear title if the house wasn’t auctioned by the holder of the primary auction? She may get her money back (after paying the property taxes), but she didn’t get any kind of a deal. She bought a money pit.

  39. BeeBoo says:

    Yes, it is nothing but a liability.

    I knew someone who bought a small lot in Rochester at an auction for a couple of hundred bucks. It was next to a school.

    They tried to sell it to the people who lived next door when they realized building a house on it was useless, they would not be able to turn a profit selling or renting, there are too many houses there already.

    So they tried to give it to the school for a tax deduction but the city wouldn’t take it because they didn’t want it off the tax rolls.

    Then they tried to *give* it to the people next door and they wouldn’t even take it for free.

    So now they are stuck with this lot in Rochester. The taxes aren’t much but over the years it has been thousands of dollars for nothing but being able to say, “I own an empty lot in Rochester nobody wants and I pay taxes on it.”

  40. zibby says:

    Heck, I would pay $1.75 just for the sheer pleasure of driving u there some weekend and burning it down.

    • zibby says:

      @zibby: uh, driving UP there.

      • BeeBoo says:

        @zibby: Yeah, you’d be better off in terms of jail time just committing arson yourself rather than conspiring with someone else to do it. Especially if you cross state lines.

        • zibby says:

          @BeeBoo: Oh hell, man. I’d make sure there was no motive, no chance for material gain. Then, hey, there’s a litte accident and I’m kicking back in a lawn chair with a 6-pack of Piels watching a nice show.

  41. snoopy316 says:

    I bet the shipping cost was outrageous.

  42. uclajd says:

    Imagine the capital gains taxes on this, going from $1.75 to how much? Especially when President Obama doubles the capital gains tax rate.