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Homeowners’ Picketing Fails to Deter Buyers in Palmdale

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Icy weather and a protest by picketers who have filed a $5.1-million lawsuit over damaged houses in a Palmdale area development didn’t stop buyers from snapping up 23 houses in the tract that were auctioned at discount prices Saturday.

The auction, attended by 200 people, was held by Santa Monica-based developer Watt Industries to sell slow-moving houses in its 125-lot Narcissa View Estates tract near Palmdale. Watt said the houses are sound, although five are near others that owners say were built on unstable soil.

About 12 residents picketed the auction, warning bidders about their dispute with Watt and displaying pictures of their damaged houses. Those residents had wanted Watt to exchange their houses for those being auctioned.

On Friday, a group of seven families in the development filed the lawsuit against Watt and several subsidiaries, accusing the builder of fraud and negligence. The owners say unstable soil is causing severely cracked foundations and walls, and may affect up to 20 Narcissa houses.

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The controversy seemed to make little difference, though, to bidders who offered about the same prices for the houses, regardless of their proximity to those damaged.

The most expensive houses sold for $188,000, about $100,000 less than the last asking price of $285,000.

Lee and Donna Williams, Palmdale residents who successfully bid $173,000 for a 2,100-square-foot house near those belonging to the protesters, said they weren’t worried about the controversy.

“I think we got a really good buy,” Lee Williams said.

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Gary and Sally Romero of Burbank said they were a little nervous about the houses. However, they purchased a 2,000-square-foot dwelling away from the damaged ones for $187,000.


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