Monroe County’s annual tax sale results: $240K in back taxes to be paid on 46 properties

At Thursday’s annual sale of real estate with delinquent taxes, Monroe County’s treasurer, Jessica McClellan, was able to auction off 46 of the 65 properties on this year’s list. The minimum bid for each property was the total amount of back taxes, penalties and sales-related costs that were owed to the county.

The 46 pieces of real estate that found at least one bidder on Thursday had a total of $239,453 in outstanding taxes plus sales costs that needed to be paid. The county will now get that sum—either from the amount paid by the highest bidder on Thursday or from the owner, if the owner redeems the property.

There’s still a year-long window for redemption. So the word “sale” is more apt for the tax certificate a high bidder gets once the price is paid, than for the property itself.

According to McClellan, the high bidder on Thursday does not acquire the right to go on to the property—the owner is still the owner until the redemption period expires.

That left 19 properties unsold on Thursday, with a total of $211,967 in delinquent taxes and other costs that are unpaid.

The properties that did find a bidder on Thursday sold for a total of about $2.2 million, for a difference between the sales prices and the minimum bids—called the “overbid” amount—of about $1.95 million.

But the unpaid amount for the 19 unsold properties can’t be analyzed as “covered” by the $1.95 million. That’s because the overbid amount for a given property does not revert to the county’s general fund.

Instead, McClellan told The Beacon, it’s the person who lost the property through the sale—and possibly other parties, like lenders, who might be in line for the money—that have a right to the overbid amount. The only way the excess goes back to the county, is if an owner can’t be tracked down after three years, she said. Kyle Sturgeon, who’s the cashbook manager in the treasurer’s office, said he couldn’t remember the last time that’s happened.

Sturgeon also said about three-quarters of the properties that are sold at the tax sale are redeemed by the owners. The percentage fluctuates from year to year. Last year, 23 of 30 parcels that were sold were redeemed by the owner. In 2017, 27 out of 39 were redeemed, Sturgeon said.

The redemption cost includes 5 percent interest paid by the owner, which is passed on to the high bidder, who has to pay the treasurer the amount of the high bid on tax sale day.

Asked how “success” is defined for a tax sale, McClellan said it’s partly about trying to make the list of properties as short as possible. The list of tax sale properties gets officially compiled on July 1, she said. But few months before that, in February, a courtesy letter is sent out. The letter alerts property owners that they’ve missed at least three cycles of property tax payments (a year and half’s worth) and need to pay up by June 30. The courtesy letter helps shorten the list.

After the list is complied, owners are notified that their property will be up for auction. The shock of that notification will prompt many people to pay up, McClellan said. For properties that are owner-occupied, she said, she makes an installment plan available—they have to make a monthly payment to chip away at the back taxes and keep their current taxes paid up. The option of a payment plan also helps shorten the list.

After this year’s tax sale list was made official, The Beacon counted at least 89 properties that were paid out by the time of the tax sale.

When a property sells at the tax sale, McClellan told The Beacon, it means that the county gets the property taxes paid, whether the property stays with the same owner or goes to the buyer. Either way, it’s an indicator that the property is valuable enough for an owner to want to keep it, or for someone else to think it’s a good investment.

Sometimes someone will buy a property at the tax sale just because they want to help improve their own neighborhood, McClellan said. Those are often properties that sell for the minimum bid, she said.

On Thursday, a half dozen properties sold at the minimum bid. That’s about the same number as have sold for the minimum bid for the previous three years.

McClellan did not conduct the auction on Thursday with an “auctioneer’s cry”—she told the bidders packed into the Nat U. Hill Meeting room at the county courthouse that she was not a professional auctioneer.

Still, the auction was not without a bit of drama. A few of the properties drew a lot of competition. The standard increment used by McClellan was $1,000, but bidders were allowed to call out their own offers. Some incremented their bids by the standard $1,000 but others by $5,000.

After the roughly two-hour sale was done, McClellan got a round of applause from the bidders.

Here’s some summary figures and a map compiled by The Beacon:

Properties Sold at Minimum Bid

2016 $5,679 $5,679 6
2017 $19,936 $19,936 6
2018 $6,216 $6,216 5
2019 $26,865 $26,865 6

Unsold Properties at Tax Sale

2016 $277,254 $0 38
2017 $79,919 $0 7
2018 $219,386 $0 19
2019 $211,967 $0 19

Properties Sold at Tax Sale

2016 $100,829 $1,201,683 33
2017 $251,744 $1,501,836 39
2018 $92,841 $1,359,516 30
2019 $239,453 $2,191,365 46

All Properties in Tax Sale

2016 $378,083 $1,201,683 71
2017 $331,663 $1,501,836 46
2018 $312,227 $1,359,516 49
2019 $451,420 $2,191,365 65

Snapshot of Tax Sale Map
Cropped tax sale 2016-2019 Screen Shot 2019-10-15 at 1.07.12 PM

Interactive Map