by Alexsandra Stewart

If you had asked me I would have said that the auction would have been in an office, in a building, maybe in a courtroom. It wasn’t.  The residential property auction was held in Oregon City, on the Clackamas County Courthouse steps.

I figured that auctions on the courthouse steps were obsolete, a story from another time.  Yes, it had been common during the depression, maybe lasting into the fifties or sixties.  But now, in the internet age – wouldn’t there be a 21st century way of holding a property auction?

I went with a client. She was curious about a house she and her husband had made an offer on.

It was a short sale, and about the time the bank might have been reaching a decision, the seller walked. It was an investment property and the looming deficiency judgment evidently led him to decide he’d be better off with a foreclosure.

She wondered if it might be a good idea to get some cash together and try to buy it after all. On hearing the risks involved and discovering that the opening bid was $57,000 more than the offer the seller accepted that had gone to the bank, she decided not. Still, she wondered how the auction would work. So did I.

Anyone can find the lists on the internet. There are numerous sites listing the foreclosed houses and the dates on which they will go auction.  This auction was scheduled for March 6th at 10 am, at the courthouse, under the arbor.

Under the arbor.  I thought that was intriguing, strangely picturesque, ironic.

Early, we walk a few blocks and get a coffee.   See the arbor.  Sit under it waiting for 10 o’clock.  See a woman with a sheaf of papers in her hand. A man lighting a cigarette. Tagged jurors on a break. No crowds, no one with envelopes or paperwork. Just the woman, clutching papers, mouth clenched.

“Are you waiting for the auction?” I ask.  Yes, with a nod of her head.

The cigarette man interjects with, “they’re doing it now.”

Looking around, I see nothing more.  “Where?”

“On the steps,” and points.

“But the web site said ‘under the arbor'”.

“Only when there is something going on at the courthouse and they want to keep the steps clear.”

A man stands by one of the pillars, headset attached, with clip board and pen.  He’s reading from a list, pauses,  makes a check as we watch. This is how it works he explains.  “I read the list.”

I wonder where the bidders are. The insiders, the regulars I’ve been told about. The scene is strangely empty for what is supposed to be a hot activity.

The house on Primrose?


He is not overly communicative. The woman with papers speaks softly to him. My client and I look at each other. We turn, leave.

From across the street I see she is no longer there and someone else has taken her place.



It happens on the courthouse steps.

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  • Foreclosures in Maryland June 18, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Reading this post reminded me of a time where I took my client to the “steps of the courthouse” in Rockville Maryland and we saw her house being sold for 50 cents to the dollar. ..I was trying to help her stop the foreclosure from taking place and we had a confirmation from the bank. .except no one told the auctioneer that. . eventually she lost her house and I get sad everytime I think of this client.