On the surface, the three homes appear to have just one thing in common: foreclosure.

One was purchased for $1.4 million in Plymouth, Mich., a city that sometimes appears on Money magazine's list of the best places to live. Another, bought for $290,000, is in Paterson, N.J., in a neighborhood where the poverty rate runs twice the national average. A third seized home, once valued at $929,000, is on the outskirts of Oxnard, a Southern California coastal town that fades into farmland.

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