Third property auction nets 53 parcel sales

Published 10:23 am Friday, August 21, 2009

IRONTON — The hammer fell quickly and often.

Bidders looking to snag tax delinquent parcels at cut rates were in force Thursday at the third and final property auction conducted by the Lawrence County Treasurer’s Office.

The reduced minimums allowed bidders to act on the estimated 140 parcels for pennies on the dollar with every lot offered having its delinquency significantly reduced by a court ordered deficiency judgment to move the property.

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When the dust settled inside the Fourth Street entrance of the Lawrence County Courthouse, 53 parcels changed hands and all but one went for considerably less than the past due amounts owed on them. Unofficial totals from Thursday’s auction show the county collecting $53,975 in bids and fees.

Around $40,725 of that will be dispersed to both the county and the individual school districts where the parcel is located, while the remaining $13,250 constitutes court costs for handling the liens.

In total, all three auctions and those parcels that were saved from the hammer following owner repayment resulted in more than $338,000 in bids, payments and fees for the county and its school districts.

Lawrence County started out with more than 200 parcels against which legal action was taken and all properties were at least two years delinquent before being placed up for auction. The first two auctions were held July 2 and July 16.

“Many of the still available properties have been abandoned and people have walked away from them,” Lawrence County Treasurer Stephen Dale Burcham said before bidding kicked-off Thursday. “This allows them to be put back to use again.”

Similar to the first two auctions, prospective bidders were forced to pre-register with Burcham’s office. This time though, because of the reduced rates, bidders were required to sign an affidavit declaring they were not the current property owner or an agent bidding on behalf of the deficient owner.

Further, the affidavit required successful bidders not the transfer the deed back to the original property owner.

Despite 53 parcels changing hands, a majority of the successful bids came from just two individuals. Wally Haugen of Proctorville snagged 19 lots, while Jim Kratzenberg of Ironton purchased 17 separate parcels.

One of the highlights of Thursday’s auction was spirited bidding between two parties on a parcel listed as 306 N. Fifth St. While the property’s minimum reserve of $1,978.69 went unclaimed during the first two auctions, interest in the parcel hit a fevered pitch when it went for $3,500 including court costs.

It was the only parcel to sell for more than its original tax delinquency on Thursday.

Payments for each successful bid was due by 3 p.m. Thursday and Assistant County Prosecutor Kevin Waldo, who conducted the auction, told those in attendance that he anticipated entry of confirmations following the sale to be available in about seven days.

For the properties that did not sell Thursday, Burcham now has two options.

First he could continue to carry the parcel and its unpaid taxes on the county’s books or could have the state of Ohio take ownership of the property and have the Lawrence County Auditor sell the property at an auditor’s sale at the county courthouse.

To date, Lawrence County has never conducted an auditor’s sale through the state. Burcham said in all other instances, the county has decided to keep the past-due parcel on its books.

Lawrence County officials were able to auction parcels like the ones the past two months as property tax liens trump most any other liens.

A tax lien sits above a mortgage, deeds of trust, mechanic’s liens and even judgment holder’s liens. However, winning bidders are only satisfying the tax lien on the property and have to absorb any other outstanding debts associated with it.

Further, Ohio law clearly favors property owners in matters such as this and allows numerous opportunities for title-holders to keep their land, provided they settle the tax debt.

Even after the tax sale, delinquent property owners have until the entry of confirmation is officially filed to redeem their property. While rare, should that happen, the winning bidder is refunded his or her money.