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Four investors dominate tax certificate sale

David Adlerstein
The Apalach Times

The COVID-19 shutdown would have canceled an in-person sale of the tax certificates last month, but the tax collector’s office was prepared for it.

In the second year of conducting the sale entirely online, Tax Collector Rick Watson said he was prepared that the process was in place for a smooth sale during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m awfully glad that we already had the delinquent tax certificate sale set up. It’s a learning curve for everyone,” he said. “Things went very smoothly.”

As it turned out, of the 1,408 parcels advertised, totaling about $1.6 million, 928 tax certificates were sold, with the remaining 500 or so all settled up in advance of the sale.

Of the tax certificates sold, 633 went to private investors, for a combined total of just shy of $863,000, and 295 were struck to the county, totaling about $95,500.

All told the volume of tax certificates totaled about $952,000.

As it turned this volume was higher than last year, when 869 tax certificates, worth a little more than $884,000 went on sale, and then a little more than $801,000 was sold off in 741 certificates, with an average interest rate awarded of 11 percent.

This year the average interest rate was 7.75 percent.

“The lower interest rate is a benefit to the property owner because when they (the buyers) redeem them, they pay less interest,” said Watson.

He surmised that the uptick may have been due to the repercussions of Hurricane Michael.

This year, the overall volume of tax certificates bucked, by a slight amount, the decade long trend, in which they have dropped mostly every year, down from a peak in 2009, when 1,791 certificates went for about $3 million.

Last year 60 bidders registered for the online auction, but only 40 of these followed through by putting up a deposit of approximately 10 percent of what they intended to buy. Data regarding the 2019 sale showed that 29 of these individuals secured tax certificates.

This year 58 signed up to bid and 25 were successful, with four investors buying the lion’s share, about $550,000 worth of certificates, of the total sold.