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Tax sale brings nearly $6.5 million on 229 delinquent properties

Bidders cannot begin foreclosure process in Washington County Circuit Court for six months

June 05, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • John Marquiss, left, standing, and Jim Truitt, right, sitting, bid against each other on a property during the annual tax sale auction Tuesday morning in downtown Hagerstown.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

By the time Washington County Treasurer Todd Hershey kicked off the annual tax auction Tuesday morning, the list of property owners still delinquent on their taxes had been winnowed down from the 625 listed a few weeks ago to 298.

More than 70 people gathered behind the Treasurer’s Office at 35 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown to bid on houses, commercial buildings — even a bowling alley — with an estimated total cash value of $44.3 million.

A few hours later, they had bid nearly $6.5 million on 229 of the properties, according to treasurer’s office figures.

That does not mean the winning bids will result in those individuals or entities owning the properties. The bidders were buying options to foreclose. The delinquent owners have four months to reimburse the bidders for the taxes owed, plus 6 percent interest, Hershey said.

Bidders can start charging attorney’s fees on top of the taxes owed after four months, but cannot begin the foreclosure process in Washington County Circuit Court for six months, Hershey said.

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“I won three, all on Summit Ave. right there by the park,” said John Marquiss Jr. of Hagerstown. “They’re all nice houses, so someone will probably come and pay the taxes, but if not, I get a nice windfall.”

“I’m looking to get a family property, but I’ll probably get outbid,” said Tina Pasciak of Falling Waters, W.Va.  “I’m not going to compete with the banks.”

Pasciak said she wanted to bid on a house where a family member lives.

While most bids were above the amount of taxes owed, the bidders only had to pay the taxes and bid premiums on Tuesday, Hershey said.

The amount they bid above that would not be payable to his office until they take possession of the property, he said.

Bids started with the amount of taxes, interest and penalties owed, ranging from a few hundred dollars to more than $100,000.

While many registered bidders were individuals, others represented companies, a few of which submitted dozens of winning bids.

Some of the biggest properties still listed for sale on Friday, such as the Vinayaka Missions American University property on Downsville Pike, had been removed by Tuesday.

The delinquent taxes, interest and fines on the 298 properties came to $813,865.31, but not all the properties generated bids. Nine Williamsport area properties owned by one man failed to get a single bid.

“We do have a larger percentage of properties that went unsold,” Hershey said.

In 2009, just four of 157 properties went unsold, increasing to 38 out of 351 in 2011, he said.

On Tuesday, 69 properties went unsold, Hershey said.

Part of the reason might be that bidders are less willing to risk their money for the 6 percent rate of redemption, he said.

Hershey said he asked the Washington County Board of Commissioners to raise the rate, a request that was denied last year. If the redemption rate were higher, more bidders might have figured it was worth the risk to buy those properties, he said.

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