Lighthouses and Barracks for Sale, Cheap

Adventurous homebuyers might consider buying their own army barracks or lighthouseForeclosures aren't the only bargains in today's housing market -- what about lighthouses and Army barracks? A ranger's cabin? reports on the U.S. government's fire sale of underutilized properties. Sure, some of the real estate is run down, but to compensate, the minimum bids in some markets were just lowered. Who wouldn't want to live in a lighthouse?

Think selling a house in this market is tough? Try unloading a lighthouse. Saddled with buildings, properties and land it can't use, the U.S. government is ready to deal -- which spells opportunity for buyers with a little imagination.

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The General Services Administration, which manages, preserves and sells government buildings and properties, has fallen on hard times. The pool of buyers is smaller, and even for those eager to own a ranger's cabin or an Army
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barracks, financing is tight -- particularly because many of these properties are obsolete and in need of renovation, which makes them risky in the eyes of lenders. So in response, the GSA has lowered the threshold for minimum bids in certain markets. That means the mid-size lighthouse you've always wanted could be yours for just $10,000 down.

But doing business with GSA, as with many government processes, can be a hassle for individual buyers. The agency requires a registration deposit before an interested buyer can bid, and those deposits can start at $10,000 per property and run to more than $1 million. (The money is returned if the bidder doesn't win.)

Want to see the property before you bid? That might not be so easy either: Some of the properties are accessible only via U.S. Coast Guard ferry, or if a registered bidder misses the tours, they can contact the GSA realty agent listed with the property. For one property currently on auction, the Old Orchard light station, three miles off the coast of Staten Island, N.Y., the GSA and U.S. Coast Guard, in seafaring weather, have ferried registered bidders to the property, says Ralph Conner, GSA's director of property utilization. There are usually two open houses scheduled for offshore properties before the auction begins, and about 70 percent of registered bidders for a listing will visit -- often with their own marine engineer who assesses the property's condition, he says.


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