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CPBJ Extra Blog

On the block: The over-under on Harrisburg mansions

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Before last Thursday, I had never been to an on-site real estate auction.

After the fact, I'm hoping future auctions are just as entertaining as my afternoon on the block with the former Mary Knackstedt mansions.

When all was said and done, the three Front Street mansions and an adjacent corner lot were sold to two West Shore buyers for a combined $756,000.

Fairview Township residents Mike and Sally Wilson paid $361,000 for 2909 and 2917 N. Front St. They said they plan to fix up and live in 2909 N. Front St. Mike Wilson, who owns Integral Construction, said their renovation budget for the residence is about $500,000.

They had no plans for the other property since they were only targeting the one. Combination bidding, which was part of the entertainment, landed them both.

Dillsburg-area resident Rob Edwards, a long-time real estate investor and developer, said he had no immediate plans for 2905 N. Front St., Mary K's residence, and 2901 N. Front St., a parking lot off Division Street. He paid $395,000 for the two properties.

Neither response was a surprise.

I think some in attendance were hoping the buyers would say they planned on demolishing the homes in favor of a large condominium project. Too soon?

No, the exciting part for me was the cast of characters and the process.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse, who lives nearby, was among the eager spectators. He wanted to know who his new neighbors would be and their plans for the properties. He was quite the citizen journalist, breaking out his camera for a photo of the new buyers, which he later tweeted.

Most importantly, he was glad to see the properties added back to the city tax rolls.

And who doesn't enjoy a little over-under at an auction? How much will they all sell for in the end? I guessed $500,000 before it started; another bidder was at $600,000, according to the mayor.

I saw several local investors, commercial real estate professionals and appraisers at various stages of the auction, which lasted for more than two hours.

You always secretly hope the person you know will make a big splash in the bidding, or that the rumors you hear as the price goes up will end up being true.

None of that happened, but it was nice to imagine what could have been. I know a few people left feeling the same way, especially those who squared off throughout much of the bidding process.

I honestly lost count of how many official bids were placed by about five bidders. The auction was divided into two rounds. The first round was base bidding on the individual parcels, while the second was about bidding on multiple parcels. The latter included several combinations, including a few attempts to take them all.

Other combinations and individual property bids above the base would knock someone out on one lot or all of them before they countered. At one point about halfway through, it looked like bids between $413,000 and $485,000 would end the auction.

Edwards was the wild card who kept pushing the action on single properties, which ultimately led to smaller combinations and the winning bids.

And in case you're curious: The delinquent property taxes on the properties is more than $223,000, according to Dauphin County property records.

Factoring in flood insurance and the renovations needed to restore these properties, do you think this was a good deal for the new owners? We are talking prime real estate along the river, but I'm left to wonder about the state of these properties in a year or two.

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal. Circle Jason Scott on .

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