Archive for Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rare Douglas County Treasurer’s property sale usually includes some interesting buys

February 29, 2012


Bring your cash — and maybe a map.

The Douglas County Treasurer’s office will host a rare tax auction Tuesday, when nine pieces of real estate will be sold regardless of how low a bid may be.

“It may be an opportunity to pick up a bargain,” said Douglas County Treasurer Paula Gilchrist.

Or it may just be an opportunity to tell your spouse that for $1 you bought a wonderful piece of rural Douglas County property, which happens to be only 8 feet long and is in the middle of the Kansas River. (That actually happened once, Gilchrist said.)

Tuesday’s auction — set for 10 a.m. in the basement jury assembly room in the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St. — is a definite buyer beware event.

This year’s auction has nine pieces of property that will be sold regardless of price. The properties have been delinquent on their real estate taxes for more than three years, and Gilchrist’s office has contacted all banks and other known parties that may have a legal interest in the land to ensure they do not want to make any claim to the property.

“We’ll go out there and sell the property to the highest bidder,” Gilchrist said. “If we get enough to pay the taxes, great. But if we don’t, we’ll still sell it.”

Similar types of “sheriff sale” auctions are held each week at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center. But those sales are different because they are usually foreclosure sales. Normally the bank that is foreclosing on the property attends those auctions and will bid at least the amount that is still left on the mortgage. In a tax auction, any banks involved in the process normally have bowed out by this stage.

Typically, a tax auction attracts an ordinary group of residents who are looking to purchase the property for as cheap as they can.

“The price usually depends on how many people show up,” she said.

There are all types of property at a tax auction. This year’s crop includes a thin stretch of ground between Heatherwood Drive and a drainage ditch, likely too narrow of a lot to do anything with other than mow.

Others, like a rural property south of North 600 Road and west of East 1550 Road, appear to be landlocked. And one Lecompton lot in the 200 block of Shannon Avenue is such an odd-shaped piece of property that it would make a geometry major blush. It also has the selling point of being right next to the railroad tracks and the Kansas River.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there are at least two properties that have houses on them, including a typical suburban ranch at 1212 E. 27th St. in Lawrence that is valued at $140,000.

The smart money is betting it will sell for far less than that.

“At the last auction, we sold a pretty nice home for a fairly small price,” Gilchrist said. “We definitely have had buyers who have walked away from here pretty happy.”

Gilchrist said her office holds a tax auction about every two years. The legal process for declaring a property eligible to be sold at a tax auction is significant, so Gilchrist waits until several properties are eligible before conducting a sale.

As far as details for this year’s sale go, many of the properties don’t have actual addresses but instead are listed by their legal descriptions. The list of properties can be found at the county’s website,, under the Treasurer’s Department listing. The Web page includes a function that lets users pull up a satellite map showing the exact location of the property.

The sale is a cash affair. Buyers must pay in cash or with a cashier’s check within two hours after the sale has ended.

How you tell your spouse is up to you.


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 1 month ago

This is a repeat of a posting I made on this forum September 6, 2011:

Here's a funny and true one: My grandfather owned a driveway between two houses, which he had bought at a tax auction. He didn't own either house, only the driveway between them.

But he was very nice about it, and let the owners of the houses on each side of it decide how they were going to share his driveway, he never got involved in any disputes that might have arisen between them over it.

When I was a kid, it was a family joke to drive past and see what kind of car was parked in my grandfather's driveway!

When it was time to settle his estate, my mother expressed concern about what we were going to do with that driveway. But, in going over his legal papers, we discovered that in his later years, he had sold all of his oddball properties like that.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.