Government and Real Estate

Tax-foreclosure auction set for Aug. 21

County Treasurer’s public sale will be different from previous years.

August 16, 2013
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The tax-foreclosure auction taking place Wednesday will be significantly different than more recent sales, as fewer properties will be available.

The Kent County Treasurer’s office had 309 properties up for auction last year and all but nine sold at the August and October sales. This Wednesday, bidders will choose from only 70 properties.

What will also be noticeable about this week’s public sale is that only a few properties in Grand Rapids are up for grabs. The city normally has the majority of tax foreclosures on the list because of the sheer size of its housing stock. About 180 homes were listed last year.

City commissioners last month sold 163 properties to the Kent County Land Bank Authority for $1.182 million for redevelopment instead of selling them to the County Treasurer for the auction.

Still, Grand Rapids will have two or three homes on the list. Kent County Treasurer Ken Parrish gave the owners of those residences additional time to pay their back taxes, but they weren’t able to do so. City commissioners had intended to transfer those properties to the land bank last month, but didn’t follow through on doing that.

“The city had already gone through its process of acquiring all the properties that were on the list at the time. Then these three additional properties came up and they said they didn’t want to bother with the whole process again,” said Parrish.

“There is a couple, but that’s about it. There aren’t many in Grand Rapids,” he added.

Parrish pointed out that residences in Wyoming and Kentwood are on the list, as are condo sites in Lowell and Cedar Springs. The rest are spread throughout the county.

The village of Sparta and Nelson and Plainfield townships also sold properties to the land bank, which ended up buying a little more than 200 of the tax foreclosures.

The initial foreclosure list had 309 properties on it, the same number as last year. The number dropped to about 270 because properties that were on the list were also in a state of bankruptcy. The parcels that went to the land bank reduced the list’s final tally to 70.

“I do think the turnout will be lower than we’ve had the past couple of years just because the number is down and because there are so few properties in the city of Grand Rapids. There are certain buyers who look to only buy in the city of Grand Rapids, and so my guess is they’re not likely to show up if those properties aren’t available,” said Parrish. “So I’m thinking turnout will be down fairly significantly.”

The auction begins at noon Wednesday at DeVos Place. Registration starts at 11 a.m.

If all the properties don’t sell at auction this week, a second public sale — often referred to as the scavenger sale — may be held later. Last year’s second sale took place in October.

Last year, the auction and sale raised nearly $2.4 million — a figure that included the $420,000 the land bank paid for the 43 tax-foreclosed properties it bought from the county last year. The revenue from both sales easily covered the $1.9 million the Treasurer’s office needed to make the county whole for purchasing the foreclosed properties from the municipalities.

“I think the quality of the properties is pretty good this year. There are several with fairly manageable starting bids. Certainly most have starting bids of less than $10,000, and I see a lot of them with less than $5,000,” said Parrish “There still are some properties that will draw some attention, so I hope they will come and participate.”

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