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Tax sale draws curious buyers to courthouse

The Lawrence County Courthouse is usually a busy place just about any day of the week. But Friday, the foot traffic was heavier, and people lingered in the first floor lobby longer than usual.

The first tax sale in more than four years drew an estimated crowd of 75 people, some of whom were looking to purchase property, others who came to see what might happen.

"I just wanted to see what this was like," William Aldridge of Hecla said. "I don't plan to bid. Maybe if I knew where some of this property was, but I would like to know before I go and bid on anything."

Fred Howell and Danny Townsend, neighbors from Kitts Hill, had a specific plot of land in mind, and they came together to bid on it. The six acres they wanted adjoins their properties.

"I've never done this before," Townsend said.

Before the sale began, Kevin Waldo, assistant prosecutor for Lawrence County, explained the rules of the bidding and then gathered the prospective bidders at the foot of the steps leading to the second floor.

Many of the more than 1,600 parcels of land remained unsold even after the first day of the tax sale.

Some land that did sell went for the minimum bid - in some cases as little as $364.84. Other offerings attracted more than one interested party.

Jeremy Miller, of Chesapeake, came with his eye on 90 acres on Big Branch Road that was part of an estate. The land was in four parcels, and Miller was forced to bid with another prospective buyer before he walked away with all 90 acres for a total of $19,356.86.

"I just want to own it, farm it, put a house on it," Miller said.

Still, Waldo said delinquent tax payers will still have an opportunity to redeem their real estate before the new owners take possession of it.

Each sale must be confirmed by an entry filed with the Lawrence County Clerk of Courts office. A property owner may redeem that property by paying in full the taxes and other court costs owed up until the time the entry is filed, Waldo said.