June 2, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Website crash during Detroit home auction leaves $135K bidder disappointed

Detroit — A disappointed, but determined man who thought he had a winning bid to buy an abandoned home in the city under Mayor Mike Duggan’s auction last Friday said it’s wrong he now has to rebid.

Carl Hollier said Monday he is challenging how the bid ended in a tie when he received paperwork saying he won the home on Chicago Boulevard in the Boston-Edison district for $135,000. Hollier also is concerned that there’s now too much interest in the home and the bidding will top what he was set to pay when it goes up for auction again Friday.

“I have an email saying I won the house,” said Hollier, a well-known DJ who lives a few blocks from the Boston-Edison house and has toured internationally with hip-hop star Xzibit and is more commonly known for MTV’s “Pimp My Ride” show. “This is the only house that has had a computer problem.”

But city spokeswoman Alexis Wiley reiterated there was a computer glitch that shut down the website, halting the bidding with both bids on the table. Wiley acknowledged the odds are slim that both bids were entered at the same time, but that’s what happened.

She said others tried calling the land bank authority to tell it something was wrong with the site.

“We have to be fair to everyone,” Wiley said Monday. “We know the web site crashed. We don't know who else would have tried to bid on that home. The website should not have done that.”

Last month, Duggan launched the program to auction off abandoned homes. About two weeks later, the mayor announced it was set to expand the program to the Boston-Edison neighborhood near Midtown and the Osborn community on the city’s east side. The program also expanded from auctioning one home per day to two daily.

The goal is to sell nearly 400 vacant homes by the end of the year.

Late Friday, city officials were excited when the 3,000-square-foot home at 115 Chicago Blvd. sold at the auction for $135,000. The previous high bid in the auction was $87,100 for a home on Avery.

But they soon realized the website www.BuildingDetroit.org was overwhelmed by last-minute bidders and crashed, officials said.

It left Hollier dumbfounded. Hollier said he and another bidder were going back and forth on the home for the last hour of the auction. His competitor kept topping him by $100 each time.

That’s when Hollier said he upped his bid from about $128,200 to $135,000. He said he watched the time run out.

To make matters worse, he took several family members, who also live in the neighborhood, to see the home he thought he had won.

“I don’t understand why that’s possible when I put in an auto-bid before the end of bidding,” said Hollier, who is the brother of Adam Hollier, a former City Council liaison to ex-Mayor Dave Bing. He added he called an attorney Monday to see what else can be done.

“I wanted to take a check down this morning, (but) I couldn’t deal with the embarrassment. I had all weekend to be stressed out and frustrated with this. For a week, I looked forward to bidding on the house and moving my family in. The only fair thing is to declare me the winner.”

Wiley said she knows Hollier is disappointed, but she hopes he reconsiders and enters back into the bidding process Friday.

“We want this auction to attract families like Carl’s,” Wiley said. “We want this opened up to all families. We hope he bids again. (But) we have to make sure this is a fair process and issues like a computer crashing doesn’t stop families from having a fair chance at their dream home.”

Still, this shows there’s interest in Detroit homes, she added.

“The bottom line is we know there is a lot of interest in our homes and this shows that it is,” Wiley said.

dnichols@detroitnews.com
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