NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Hundreds of couples gathered in Newark on Valentine's Day to take part in what city officials called a sweetheart deal: the chance to buy land on the cheap and build a home in New Jersey's largest city.

Officials made 100 vacant, city-owned lots available exclusively to couples during the sale staged Saturday at City Hall. Interested couples could buy a lot for $1,000 —on a first-come, first-served basis — with the stipulation that they build a home there within 18 months and live there for at least five years.

Authorities say some people camped overnight to ensure they would have the chance to get a lot, and city officials started to turn couples away after the line reached about 200 people.

Many of those seeking land said the sale provided them the chance to become homeowners. The buyers were required to make a $500 down payment Saturday and pay the additional $500 at closing. They are responsible for all closing costs and must receive approval of a site plan to close on the property.

Mayor Ras Baraka said the sales mean some vacant and blighted areas in the city will be replaced with new homes and new people, which he says will help transform Newark into a stronger community.

"We are observing Valentine's Day with creativity and a commitment to Newark's couples, by offering them opportunities to achieve their American dream of home ownership," Baraka said in a statement.

Citing the strong community interest, city officials said they may hold a similar sale later this year.