Most properties sold, for now, at tax auction

June 08, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Nearly 200 Washington County properties were sold at a tax-debt auction Tuesday, although owners still can reclaim them.

The properties include the Red Byrd Restaurant in Keedysville and two downtown Hagerstown parcels connected to Demcore Development.

The home of former Hagerstown Mayor Steven T. Sager also was sold.

Bidders won't take possession of the properties for some time, if at all.

After six months, they can begin foreclosure proceedings. However, current owners have two years to pay off their debts, plus interest, and keep their properties.

In the weeks leading up to Tuesday's annual auction, the tax debt on hundreds of properties was paid off.

Of the 190 properties put up for auction, 176 drew bids. Washington County Treasurer Todd L. Hershey said it was unusual that 14 properties didn't sell. Typically, one or two don't sell, he said.


The 190 properties represented $585,936.17 in owners' debts. Through the sale, about 97 percent of that total will be covered by payments from bidders. Hershey said the county commissioners could foreclose on parcels that didn't sell.

About a half-dozen people bought the bulk of the properties on Tuesday.

One was Tom Scannell of Harford County, Md., bidding on behalf of a Baltimore company he declined to identify.

Scannell said he was high bidder on 27 properties, paying about $1.5 million.

According to auction results, the company is Brook-Lyn Corp. LLC.

Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation records list the corporation's resident agent as Bruce Miller of Timonium, Md.

Jim Truitt of Terrapin Certificates LLC of Lutherville, Md., was another bulk purchaser. After paying for the properties, he said he didn't have time to talk.

Samy Gupta of Gambrills, Md., attends the Washington County tax sale each year. He wasn't sure how many properties he bought this year.

Craig Ullery, a northern California resident, was visiting his parents in Cumberland, Md., and decided to take in some tax sales. After buying one property in Allegany County and one in Garrett County, he purchased 19 in Washington County.

Ullery said this is his first year buying tax-sale properties, which some do to make money.

According to Hershey, owners will reclaim 95 to 98 percent of the properties, reimbursing buyers. Owners also will have to pay 6 percent annual interest, prorated.

Ullery said other Maryland counties have interest rates three or four times as high.

Gupta said he hoped to keep at least one of the properties he bought, but tax-auction purchasers are content to make a profit through interest payments they'll receive.

The minimum bid for the Red Byrd was $9,943.64, covering tax debt, penalties and interest. The property was assessed for $708,200.

Truitt was the high bidder for the property at $160,000.

With a $110,000 bid, Truitt also earned the rights to 6-16 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown, a Demcore property assessed for $1,459,832, the highest on the auction list.

Truitt bought a second Demcore property in Hagerstown, 29-31 E. Washington St., for $80,000.

Several other Demcore properties were removed from the list Monday after last-minute pre-auction payments.

The Hagerstown home of Sager, the mayor from 1985 to 1997, was among the residential properties sold. Ullery bought it for $50,000.

Sager said Monday he lost a job and house in South Carolina when the recession hit and is having trouble finding another job.


Editor's note:This clarification to the above story was added June 10, 2010:

James Burtner, who co-owns the Red Byrd Restaurant with his wife, Becki, said Wednesday the couple doesn't own the property; the tax sale is not connected to the operation of the restaurant, which remains in business. Burtner said he's had to explain the difference to many concerned customers and creditors.

Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation records show that the property belongs to Red Byrd Associates LLC of Brunswick, Md.

As the story explained, most properties sold in the auction aren't expected to change hands. Property owners have up to two years to settle their debts with those who bought the parcels on Tuesday.

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