Bidders take a leap of faith at Ionia/Montcalm county land auction

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 11:24 am on Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Hopeful bidders filled the Sheridan Community Center on Monday for the Ionia/Montcalm county minimum bid land auction. — Daily News/Kyle Wilson

SHERIDAN — Hopeful bidders at Monday’s annual Ionia/Montcalm county land auction ranged from the novice (“I am so scared,” admitted Sue Keift) to the experienced (“You really need to do your homework,” advised Brett Freeman).

The Sheridan Community Center was full of prospective property owners as 68 foreclosed parcels in Montcalm County and 29 foreclosed parcels in Ionia County were up for grabs to the highest bidder.

Keift of Crystal was successful in her attempt to purchase a three-story house with a swimming pool at 205 S. Division St. in Carson City. She placed the minimum bid of $12,250 and went unchallenged.

Auctioneer Marty Spaulding points to a bidder in the crowd during the annual Ionia/Montcalm county minimum bid land auction. — Daily News/Kyle Wilson

Keift visited the site of the stately-looking home in downtown Carson City. She says the swimming pool is full of frogs, but that’s about all she knows.

“I’ve never seen the inside of it,” she said with a nervous laugh. “Hopefully it all works out.”

At the other end of the spectrum, this wasn’t the first rodeo for longtime business partners Brett Freeman and Wayne Witzel, both of Belding.

Freeman, who works in manufacturing, and Witzel, a retired truck driver, have made a side profession out of bidding on foreclosed properties with the goal of creating a future nest egg.

The Belding duo bid on several properties Monday. They were successful with two of their attempts — a house at 809 W. Montcalm St. in Greenville for $24,500 (the minimum bid was $5,200) and a house at 116 W. Isabelle St. in Belding for $7,000 (the minimum bid was $6,300).

“It’s a retirement plan,” Witzel said. “We find distressed properties. We buy them. We remodel them. We rent them out, or sometimes we sell them.”

The two men — business partners since the early 1990s — have a set of rules they follow in their bidding efforts. They never bid on foreclosed properties that are currently occupied. They focus their efforts on properties they think they can improve, longterm projects that will eventually add value back to a neighborhood. They purchase parcels assuming each property comes with a host of electrical, mechanical and plumbing issues.

A bidder smiles and laughs after a bit of confusion is sorted out. — Daily News/Kyle Wilson

“You have to go in with your eyes wide open,” Witzel said. “What you see in the (auction) picture is not what you get. You’re buying a legal description.”

“There’s a lot of emotion flying through here,” added Freeman of the auction atmosphere. “You really need to do your homework up front.”

The first property to be auctioned off Monday went to the former owner of the property. The two parcels on nine acres at 6887 E. Holland Lake Road in Crystal Township near Sheridan sold for the minimum bid of $7,600.

The audience was pleased to see a foreclosed property go back to its former owner and applauded as the man went unopposed in his bid.

The property garnering the highest bid Monday was a parcel with a nice-looking house and side buildings on a large lot at 740 Orton St. in Howard City. The property was listed at a minimum bid of $15,250, but sold for a grand total of $80,500 after a lengthy bidding war.

The cheapest sale was a wooded lot at 8037 E. Carson City Road (M-57) in Bloomer Township near Carson City, selling for $750 (the minimum bid was $600).

A handful of properties that didn’t sell Monday will be up for grabs at a no minimum bid auction to be scheduled at a later date.

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