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Phoenix Picked Clean, Private Equity Descends on Atlanta

Peter Horbulewicz started noticing investors from New York and California at Atlanta-area foreclosure auctions about four months ago. Working for private equity firms such as Colony Capital LLC and Blackstone Group LP, they’d clutch plastic folders crammed with cashiers’ checks and astonish locals with how much they were willing to pay.

“If you go head to head with them, they always win, because they always overbid,” Horbulewicz, a Polish immigrant turned American house flipper, said during a foreclosure auction outside the Gwinnett County courthouse, northeast of Atlanta.