http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=ao4F2HvP_rWo&refer=home Thanks to Spain's slumping property market, house buyers are as popular as movie stars -- and they can cause even more excitement. Reporters outnumbered bidders as lot No. 1 hit the slate in Europe's first ``Dutch auction'' for real estate last weekend in Madrid. Of 216 lots, 194 were withdrawn when they weren't purchased at the reserve price. One man, investor Manuel Sainz, bought almost half of everything sold. ``Next stop Hollywood!'' laughed Sainz, head of property company Las Terrazas de San Blas SA, as he fought off the press after buying 10 properties at discounts of as much as 30 percent. The event shows the depth of Spain's housing bust after prices tripled in the past decade. In January, the government's housing policy director, Rafael Pacheco, called the slowdown ``moderate and orderly'' after January sales volume fell 27 percent from a year earlier as the global credit shortage forced banks to reduce lending. ``Official figures are one thing and reality is something else entirely,'' said Alberto Espelosin, a strategist at Zaragoza, Spain-based Ibercaja Gestion, which manages $12 billion. ``It's really difficult for people to afford a home with the credit restrictions.'' For Tulipp Showrooms and Auctions SA, set up in September, the Madrid auction was the first in a series of monthly events taking place in Malaga, Barcelona and London over the summer. Dutch Auction The Dutch auction, developed in 17th century Amsterdam after the collapse of the tulip bubble and used today to sell fish in Spanish ports, starts with the seller's asking price and then moves down until the property finds a buyer. ``Six months ago if people made an offer below the list price then developers took offense,'' said Tulipp managing director Jorge Zanoletty, whose father established Spain's first regular property auctions 16 years ago. ``Now they are in the mood to be more open.'' As higher borrowing costs and rising unemployment deters buyers, Tulipp aims to profit from the slump by providing a new way to negotiate a price. ``People are hanging on and hanging on and when they can't hang on any longer they have to sell at whatever price,'' Espelosin said. Still, developers in the Tulipp auction capped their discounts at 30 percent off the original sale prices for properties ranging from beachside apartments to family homes in the Madrid suburbs. Constitutional Right ``We expected that nothing would be sold because the idea is so new,'' Zanoletty said. ``Now we hope that with the media exposure this is a formula that individuals will get comfortable with.'' Spaniards' real estate obsession -- the right to ``a decent and fitting home'' is in the constitution -- helped drive a 15- year economic boom that saw the economy almost triple to 1.1 trillion euros as the country overtook Italy in income per head. House prices began their surge in 1998 spurred by falling interest rates as Spain prepared for euro membership. Spain has built about 5 million new homes since then, attracting immigrant labor from Eastern Europe and Latin America to fuel a boom that peaked in 2006. Now the turmoil in global credit markets is cutting demand. The world's biggest financial companies have reported about $232 billion in credit losses and writedowns since the start of 2007 and the credit shortage is filtering through to Spain. Mortgage Slowdown In January, mortgage lending in Spain fell 28 percent from a year earlier, according to the government statistics office. House prices rose 4.8 percent in the fourth quarter, the slowest pace since 1998. ``Clients are having problems with financing,'' said Eustaquio Moleon, head of Moleon Construcciones, a family construction business in Granada, southern Spain. ``Right now you have to try anything.'' With Spain facing the slowest economic expansion in 15 years, even a 30 percent price cut wasn't enough to persuade most buyers that they were getting a bargain at the Madrid auction. ``We've picked out a few properties we like but at the moment we just want to see if there are some good discounts,'' said Eva Suarez, who visited the auction with her baby. ``If the apartments we like aren't sold in the auction we'll talk to the developers and see if we can do a deal.'' Still, for developers such as Madrid-based Sainz, the time to pick up bargains has already arrived. His investments included a 117 square-meter (1,259 square-feet) top-floor apartment on the Costa del Sol with views of the sea. He paid 396,000 euros compared with a sticker price of 565,800 euros. ``I'm a developer and I've bought these apartments to sell them,'' Sainz said. ``Not now, but perhaps in a year or a year and a half, once the crisis has past.''