Why Buy a House When You Can Own the Whole Town?

Right in the middle of Tortilla Flat, you'll find a saloon, a gift shop, a post office, a general store, and a restaurant serving burgers, ice cold beer and buzzard strips (known elsewhere as fried chicken).

With amenities like these, as well as spectacular views of the Superstition Mountains, the residents of this remote Arizona town can't imagine living anywhere else.

And anyone who wants to buy the whole town -- available for just $5.5 million -- can move in and raise the population to seven.

The online auction site eBay has offered buyers the chance to bid on everything from the original Hollywood sign to a grilled cheese sandwich with the Virgin Mary's likeness. In recent years, eBay has also become the go-to site for buyers and sellers of towns like Tortilla Flat.

So if you're considering buying or selling a small city, the people who have bought and sold towns on eBay have a few recommendations for you.

Towns for Sale Create Worldwide Buzz

"I wasn't particularly interested in buying a whole town," said Bruce Krall, who in April 2004 found himself the new owner of Bridgeville, Calif. "I was interested in developing a unique, learning retreat type of resort. A place like that would have to be out in the sticks."

After it appeared on eBay in 2002, the bidding frenzy for Bridgeville created an international media sensation, pumping the price up from the original $750,000 asking price to $1.78 million. After reading about the phenomenal bidding war, Krall visited the northern California town.

"It's absolutely gorgeous. The setting is spectacular," Krall said of the riverside town, nestled in the forested hills of Humboldt County. Within hours of seeing the place, the 46-year-old financial adviser made the seller an offer and a deal was struck that weekend. He had all the recommended inspections performed and bought the town for just $700,000 -- well below the eBay auction price.

And the story of how Bridgeville was sold is a cautionary, and typical, tale of eBay real estate transactions: a seller places a town for sale on eBay; intense media attention is lavished on the event; no serious offers come forward; the auction closes; and no sale is completed.

Krall bought the town months after the online auction had closed. The bidder who won with his $1.78 million bid later got cold feet and backed out of the deal.

EBay Bidding War 'a Fiasco'

"What a fiasco that was," said Denise Stuart of California Real Estate in Eureka, who brokered the Bridgeville deal throughout the lengthy eBay bidding process and the eventual sale to Krall.

"Both my phones -- my landline and my cell phone -- rang nonstop. There was no time to deal with anything else," she said of the process, which consumed several months of her life.

Surprisingly, though, Stuart has no real regrets about the eBay phenomenon. "I think it was a good experience. It was a learning experience," she said.

"Though it did not sell through the auction, it got a lot of attention because of the auction," Stuart admits, and the media attention is what ultimately attracted Krall.

As a buyer, what was different about Krall? He was more methodical, according to Stuart. "Bruce took the time to do all of the inspections and everything he needed to do," Stuart said.

Must Be Something in the Water

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