Homesforsale.gov

A new General Services Administration Web site has become a magnet for bargain hunters, and buyers are finding great deals on everything from land in Las Vegas to mountain vistas in California.

Two years ago, GSA's real property division launched a pilot project in San Francisco and Seattle to test an online auction site. Thousands of buyers downloaded bid packages and bid on a wide variety of real estate.

"We're able to divest properties faster from the federal government" using the online auction site, said Gordon Creed, the deputy assistant commissioner at GSA's Office of Property Disposal. "We avoid the maintenance of the property, and in the wintertime, we don't have to keep buildings heated."

Prompted by the launch of a sister site — www.gsaauctions.gov, which sells personal property such as jewelry and cars — GSA decided to expand and sell government real estate online, too.

Creed said GSA's biggest problem was making sure bidders who did not have computers or access to Internet services also could bid for the property. To do that, GSA also accepts bids via fax and mail.

Now, GSA is rolling out the service nationwide, selling real estate for government agencies at www.gsa.gov/pr/prhome.htm. Unlike private real estate agents who get a commission for every sale, GSA sells the property for free.

The Web site was developed by AllSoldOut Internet Solutions, an Arlington, Va., company that hosts the Web site. The site is actually five regional Web sites, according to Brandon Besecker, account representative for the company. Each site cost $3,000 to de.velop, and the company charges a monthly hosting fee.

The GSA site is designed to allow five different GSA.regional offices to log in, add auctions, edit an auction, and delete or suspend one. Potential buyers are unaware of this level of design and see only a colorful map that gives them choices of location, kinds of property and price range.

With the government backing every sale and detailed descriptions available on the Web site, Creed said, "people feel quite comfortable" buying their dream homes from the site.

"What we allow people to do is download the bid package from the Web page, download all of the documents, register and submit a bid for property, and the purchaser gets to pick an escrow they are comfortable with," Creed said.

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