As recently as February, auctions were seen as a last resort, something home builders were afraid would set off panic. “It makes the community look desperate no matter how you market it, and I've seen it go bad and significantly bring down the value and comps of a community,” Hope Dilbeck, director of sales and marketing for the Bakersfield, Calif., division of Standard Pacific Homes, told BUILDER in February.

Fast-forward through the burst credit bubble, subprime lending fallout, tightening credit standards, record-high inventory levels, and a precipitous drop in demand for houses, and home builders are no longer shunning auctions as a way to move product.

At the end of September, D.R. Horton, the country's largest-volume builder, and Leonard Development Co., a Sacramento, Calif.–based builder, hired Real Estate Disposition Corp., in Irvine, Calif., to unload some of their California properties. D.R. Horton, according to its Web site, was auctioning 53 units in San Diego; Leonard Development was offering 22 townhomes in West Sacramento.

But apparently the stigma of selling new homes at auction remains. How else to explain D.R. Horton's move to close its auction to anyone who didn't pay $5,000 to register, including the media? The company also refused to return phone calls seeking details on how successful the auction was.

While Leonard Development didn't close its auction to the media, it also declined to return numerous phone messages seeking comment on how the sale went. No published reports indicate whether Leonard was able to sell all 22 units.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Bakersfield, CA.