St. Joseph Co. tax auction "recession proof"

Despite the credit crunch and the housing slump, more than seven million dollars changed hands Wednesday at St. Joseph County’s delinquent tax auction.

There was a standing room only crowd of 120-registered bidders on hand as the county auctioned off nearly 15-hundred tax delinquent properties.

It didn’t take long for the bidding on a single tax delinquent home in Granger to top 320-thousand dollars.

“I was in the bidding,” said Jack Williams from Birmingham, Alabama, “not the purchaser though.”

Williams said the winning bid was about 100-thousand dollars higher than he was willing to go.

“A lot of the bigger players are still in the game you know, so a lot of their credit lines are still available” said Chad Thompson, a bidder from Indianapolis. “Because there’s so little interest rates anywhere else, this is attractive for them to come and bid on properties.”

For some, the real interest in the auction is to make money--not to own homes.

Current property owners can maintain possession if they beat a one year deadline to pay all back taxes, plus ten percent interest to the successful tax sale bidder.

“Most of these folks, 98, 99 percent of them will pay their taxes and the people here will earn interest,” said Jack Williams.

Williams proclaimed that the tax sale was “recession-proof,” and St. Joseph County Treasurer Sean Coleman was inclined to agree.

“I think there are still value hunters out there,” said Coleman. “This is a part of the market that’s considered to be a niche, so for those who understand this tax sale process there is according to statute, money to be made.”

Sean Coleman says that the auction brought in $1.2 million in delinquent taxes. It also generated $5.9 million worth of surplus fees.


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