Diverse buyers jump at former ‘slumlord’ properties during Kenpor auction

3224 E. Street, one of the former Bob Coyle properties now up for sale by Kenpor. Courtesy of Jamie Moffett
3224 E. Street, one of the former Bob Coyle properties now up for sale by Kenpor. Courtesy of Jamie Moffett

More than 40 properties in Kensington and Port Richmond with a dark past were auctioned off Wednesday.

Buyers at the Kenpor auction for properties formerly owned by “slumlord millionaire” Bob Coyle ranged from local real estate investors to contractors and neighbors hoping to fix up their neighborhood.

“That’s the one I wanted!” said Jamila Gambrel, an investor who owns several rentals near Temple University, after winning the first property up on the block.

A man from Connecticut who recently moved to the area has already rehabbed a home in Kensington and was pleased to get the house next door for just $7,000, he said.

“We’re planning with God’s help to have a few properties,” he said.

However, not everyone was satisfied. After prices dropped from $25,000 to under $15,000 by the third sale, auctioneers announced that about 35 of the properties were being removed from the auction, and would have to be purchased individually from Kenpor at negotiated prices.

That disappointed bidders like Helen Gibson, 23, who came to buy the house across the street from the Free Church of St. John’s at Emerald and Elkhart streets, where she leads the youth group. That house was among the properties removed from the auction. But Gibson will still pursue an individual purchase.

“My dream is just to establish a place of stability — a Christian place with an open-door policy for the youth I work with,” Gibson said.

Jamie Moffett, a neighborhood activist and founder of the Kensington Renewal Initiative, was optimistic about the results of the auction.

“These Bob Coyle abandoned properties — once they’re rehabbed and filled with families, that naturally pushes the street crime away,” Moffett said.

Kenpor acquired a portfolio of defaulted mortgages on properties formerly owned by Coyle in 2012 and announced plans to auction 86 of them off in February.

Auctioneers and Kenpor employees declared the auction a success, citing the diverse crowd of buyers, which included many neighborhood residents and locals.

“There were no shady investors coming to pull a fast one. These people are going to dig in right away,” said David McLain, Kenpor counsel.

More than 40 of the 86 Kenpor homes for sale were sold during the auction, at prices mostly around $5,000 to $10,000.

Each buyer was required to put $6,500 in escrow for mandatory repairs to the properties.

Many of the homes are blighted or vacant, but some have legal tenants.

It is unclear what will happen to those tenants.

The buyer of two properties with tenants in “rent-to-own” agreements must follow a lease agreement and purchase option issued by Kenpor. But the buyer who purchased said he was unsure how he would work with the tenants and declined to comment further.


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