Interest swells in Douglas County tax auction

March 7, 2012


Everybody is looking for a deal these days, even if they’re not quite sure what they’re looking at.

More than 50 people showed up Tuesday morning for the Douglas County tax auction, an event hosted by the Douglas County Treasurer’s office to sell property that has at least three years worth of delinquent property taxes. When the treasurer’s office last held a tax sale about two years ago, a grand total of three people showed up.

Jefferson County resident Noble Lathrom said his daughter saw an article about the sale in the Journal-World last week and convinced him to attend the auction in search of a bargain.

Come to find out, that is a little easier said than done.

“It ends up being a real guessing game,” said Lathrom, who bid several hundred dollars on several properties but fell short each time. “But it was exciting.”

The auction comes with a twist because buyers have very little information about what they’re buying. There are no open houses or public viewings of the property, except what you can see from a drive-by of the property. And county officials definitely stress that it is a buyer-beware type of event.

One bidder asked a county official whether the county could guarantee a buyer would have access to a land-locked piece of property that was on the auction bill. That drew a laugh from some in the crowd.

“I’m not assuring you anything, seriously,” said County Counselor Evan Ice.

But such uncertainty did little to slow interest. The county took about a dozen bids on the property before the 3.6 acres in southern Douglas County sold for $1,000. Definitely a discount off market rates, although the market usually provides you a road.

The big ticket property of the day was a suburban ranch home at 1212 E. 27th St. It sold for $36,000 after about a half-dozen bidders went back and forth about 30 times. It is valued by the county appraiser’s office at about $140,000.

But even at that price it was clear not everybody had fully researched how the system worked. About midway through the bidding, one bidder asked if the bid price was in addition to how much was owed in taxes on the property. It is not. The county sells the property regardless of whether it receives a bid large enough to cover the outstanding amount of taxes. In case you are wondering, four of the eight properties did sell for enough to cover the taxes.

“Probably the most interesting thing was to watch how much people were willing to bid on a piece of property that they obviously hadn’t done much research on,” said Helena Delk, who bid on several properties but came up empty-handed. “I totally will come back again.”

As for the lowest-priced property of the day, it sold for $150. It was a narrow strip of ground about a half-acre in total between a creek and Heatherwood Drive in southwest Lawrence. It appears to be too narrow to build on, evidenced by the fact that one of the larger developers in town, Mastercraft Corp., allowed the property to go on the auction block.

But that didn’t stop two people from bidding on it. The winner, who declined to give his name to the Journal-World, said he didn’t know what he was going to do with it. He just knew two things.

“It was the right price and the right side of town,” he said.


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

I was under the impression that some counties report tax delinquencies to all three credit bureaus, in which case the debtor's credit rating is severely damaged.

I wonder if Mastercraft Corp.'s decision to not pay their tax debt was reported.

And, one has to wonder what all other debts Mastercraft Corp. has not paid.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

"But that didn’t stop two people from bidding on it. The winner, who declined to give his name to the Journal-World, said he didn’t know what he was going to do with it. "

If nothing else, he'll be paying property taxes. Otherwise, it'll be up for auction again in a few years.

Mark Zwahl 6 years, 2 months ago

Why wouldn't the county make these properties available so potential bidders might actually have a sense of the value. Seems to me that would raise more money. Helluva way to run a county...

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