Patterson Park auctions: bellwether?

A dozen rowhomes were auctioned off Thursday in and around the Patterson Park neighborhood. That's particularly noteworthy because they belonged to the Patterson Park Community Development Corp., a nonprofit group that was the driving force in that neighborhood's revitalization but fell victim to the housing slump. It filed for bankruptcy protection in February.

More about that in today's story. But the auctions -- held back-to-back from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. -- are worth paying attention to even if you're not interested in Patterson Park. They're a sign of change, and not only since the bubble days.

The average price was $70,000. I thought "ouch," because they'd been refinanced for $110,000 on average in early 2007. But auctioneer Daniel Billig with A.J. Billig & Co. said it was about 30 percent more than his company had been expecting.

Nine months ago, he said, investors "weren't even coming to the auctions. I had some really great properties that I either didn't sell or I had a very tough time. I would say since the beginning of May, we've gotten progressively better. Better results, better turnout."

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