October 20, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Donna Terek

Nonprofit to be foreclosure auction stand-ins in Wayne

Easy auction
Easy auction: whydontweownthis.com gives Detroiters second chance at county foreclosure auction

The second round of the Wayne County Foreclosure Auction starts Friday with about 13,000 properties for opening bids of $500. Most are in Detroit.

Residents who missed the registration but are committed to buying in the city may be able to get in on the action through the interactive website WhyDontWeOwnThis.com.

Officials with the site have created the Land Blank, a nonprofit that is registered for the auction and plans to place proxy bids for people who either missed the original Oct. 14 deadline or couldn't afford the $5,000 deposit required for bidding on multiple parcels.

The designers — Jerry Paffendorf, 30, and Mary Lorene Carter, 28, of Detroit, and Larry Sheradon, 28, of Portland, Ore. — said the site was built to help potential investors navigate the auction.

"It's kind of incredible," said Paffendorf. "For the price of a month's rent you can become the owner of a house or a field in a major American city."

A friend, Andy Didorosi, 24, a small business incubator in Ferndale who also will run the Land Blank, posted the $5,000 registration fee with the county.

Didorosi says the group will only help residents "if they're buying properties to be homeowner occupied."

"Owners who occupy their properties are invested in the future of Detroit," he said. "We just want to have more neighbors."

One Midtown renter, Thomas Gilchrist, 23, said the website got him interested in buying his own home.

He said he deposited the funds he has to spend with Land Blank plus 10 percent for paperwork. Land Blank, in turn, will bid on the properties he's interested in and if their bid wins they will cede Gilchrist the property.

Didorosi, who rents in Ferndale and also owns a property management business in Detroit, said he also plans to bid on a home in the auction.

"It's time," he said.

Delphia Simmons, 52, said she also is working through the Land Blank. She and her husband want to help two of their three grown children into "fixer-upper" homeownership. "Without the Land Blank, I would not have been able to bid on multiple properties because we don't have $5,000 to deposit," she says.

Paffendorf's name may sound familiar. The New Jersey transplant is founder of Loveland, the micro-real estate website selling Detroit real estate in 1-inch square "lots" at $1 each. He was the driving force behind the $50,000 Kickstarter crowd-funding of the RoboCop statue.

Paffendorf and Carter know a little about the foreclosure auction, having used it to purchase two vacant lots for their Loveland project.

The process was overwhelming, they said, but the tools they created to locate the lots for Loveland made property research much easier than anything offered by the county.

So, with programmer Larry Sheradon they devised an interactive map tool for identifying and assessing the city's available foreclosed properties.

That interactivity helped one city resident sidestep a potential auction disaster. A visitor to the site saw Michael Lee's metal finishing business on the auction list and posted a message about it. Paffendorf called Lee who said he was flabbergasted.

"I knew I owed some taxes but I didn't know this," Lee said. Now he's working with the county to try to get his taxes cleared up and the property off the auction rolls.

"I hate to think what could have happened," Lee said.

The team spent two years developing their mapping software while "trying to think like Disney and act like Google," Carter said. "And now we have something incredibly powerful, a clean-burning, easy-to-use platform that you could put any amount of information on."

dterek@detnews.com

(313) 222-2030

Mary Lorene Carter, 28, left, of Detroit; Andy Didorosi, 24, of Ferndale; and Jerry Paffendorf, 30, of Detroit are behind the Land Blank. / Donna Terek / The Detroit News
More Donna Terek