Tax Collector Jimmy Harris sold off a smaller volume of tax certificates at the May 30 sale than he did the year before.
In fact, it was less than half the dollar amount it was in 2010, as this annual chunk of delinquent taxes has steadily shrunk over the past five years.
“That means more people paid their taxes this year than in the past,” said Harris who, together with clerk Sarah Braswell, spent all day auctioning off the certificates to a room that ebbed and flowed among 45 eligible bidders.
The county gets a 5 percent commission from the sale proceeds, which also cover the costs of advertising for three weeks prior to the sale.
When those amounts, tacked on to the lax liens, are figured in, Harris brought in a little more than $996,000 from the sale of 1,161 tax certificates, down from the $1.05 million that came in last year from the sale of 45 more certificates, 1,206.
The 2013 sale, which was based on the tax obligations of the previous calendar year, represented a steep half-million dollar drop from 2012, when 1,413 certificates were sold, totaling $1.52 million. And that was almost a half-million dollars less than in 2011, when 1,585 tax certificates were sold, totaling $1.96 million.
In 2010, 1,668 certificates worth $2.36 million were sold. Go back another year, to 2009, and the total was just $60,000 shy of $3 million, when 1,791 certificates were snatched up by investors.
With fewer bidders, the rates at last month’s sale seemed not to be driven down as sharply as past years, when investors from near and far, such as a Tampa group of investors that spent about $270,000 in 2013, were drawn to the sale.
Rates start at 1.5 percent per month, or 18 percent per year, simple interest, and are bid down from there. Harris estimated that the average was in the 12 percent range, adding that “that means the rate stayed higher this year.”
A private bidder from Panama City bought about $150,000 in certificates this year, Harris said, the largest single amount. He said bidders also came from throughout Franklin County, as well as Tallahassee, Panama City, Sopchoppy, Georgia, Maine and New York.
As required by Florida statute, the county had to assume possession of all tax deeds under $250 for homesteaded properties. Those who buy the certificates, after 22 months, may ask for their money and apply for a tax deed. The delinquent taxes must be repaid to them, with interest, or they may force a sale of the property on the courthouse steps.
At least 60 of Florida’s 67 counties have opted for online auctions, but Harris said he plans to keep the live sale because local bidders prefer it that way.