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Delusional Housing Boosters Buoy Phoenix Foreclosure Market

Then the growing number of foreclosures drew more bargain hunters. The increased number of bidders, and firms like AZ Bidder, the one Thomas works for, has added competitiveness and more transparency to the auction system. Several firms bid for multiple prospective buyers, so a bidder outside the courthouse may be an agent using a cellular phone and a laptop to communicate with clients from around the world. Newcomers aren't shunned. Instead, they are looked at as potential clients for the more than half-dozen bidding services that have representatives like Thomas at the auctions every day. The increased competition for foreclosure homes is pushing up prices, which may bode well for the housing market at large. Foreclosure homes at rock-bottom prices have kept the region's median home price suppressed for several years. The increasing interest in the auctions also has more lenders moving to sell homes quickly, rather than let them sit empty after they seize them through foreclosure. Bidders see the flood of homes as a get-them-before-they're-gone opportunity. "The auction frenzy for Phoenix foreclosure homes won't last forever," said Tom Ruff, a Phoenix real-estate analyst with Information Market and partner with AZ Bidder. "Foreclosures appear to be peaking, but lenders still have big backlogs to get through."

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