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Districts struggling in selling homes by students

BENSON -- For local school districts, the end of the school year doesn't just mean graduation for another senior class: It also signifies the time to sell a house built by the district's high school construction class.

In past years, the school districts in Benson, New London-Spicer and Litchfield have found it relatively easy to sell their small, yet affordable homes on their first bid openings and auctions.

But this year is a little different.

Last month, Benson Public Schools and New London-Spicer Public Schools put their construction class homes up for sale. Neither received an offer.

Benson attempted to auction its 1,400-sqaure-foot Trades class home for $61,000 before its May 26 School Board meeting, Superintendent Lee Westrum said. About 10 people expressed interest in the property.

The district also struggled in 2008 selling that year's home. It eventually sold on the second bid.

NLS had similar luck trying to sell its Ag Structures class home April 27. Superintendent Paul Carlson said it was the first time in the program's seven-year history a home didn't get a purchase offer. He said the district received about a dozen inquiries on the home.

"We thought with the number of inquiries, there wouldn't be a problem, but unfortunately it didn't quite work out that way," Carlson said.

In past years, Carlson said, the district received a bid above the minimum. In 2008, the district's 1,500-square-foot home sold for $68,400.

In Litchfield, the district hopes to sell its 1,500-square-foot Construction Technology class home June 13 during a 10 a.m. auction at the high school.

Instructor Gary Hein said he held a few open houses where 25 to 30 people walked through the home. However, he said he's not sure what the auction will bring.

"I'm certainly concerned, but I think there will be some interested buyers. I would certainly hope so," he said. "But yeah, I'm concerned because of the way things are. They are a lot different than last year, that's for sure."

According to Tribune archives, Litchfield sold its 2008 house for about $71,000. Hein said he isn't sure if the district will see a similar price this year.