STORIES TO TELL

first_imgLet’s Fix That Tax Sale-Stories To TellBy George LumleyA big problem with thriving neighborhoods starts with that one vacant house or grown up lot. When there are other alternatives, why rent or buy close to a mess – unless you like messes. And that is why a street soon becomes lined with vacant houses for sale or rent that no one wants.I decided to help keep Evansville beautiful by starting a land bank. That is right. Looks easy enough. Just get title to properties and then hold them. That is land banking. My land banking operation will be more costly than some because I will pay taxes on the properties. That is the best kind of land bank, one that pays taxes. I could form a nonprofit and avoid the taxes, but I want to be on the same level with all the other private free enterprise land bankers in Evansville, and promote more of them.Many of the abandoned unkempt lots that the city fails to maintain (because the fees generated are diverted to other uses instead of actually mowing lots) go to the tax sale. I hear that is the best place to get title to lots that no one realizes they want. So it was off to the tax sale.Following the “auction today” arrows just a few miles down the road and into an office area with a meeting room about the size of a school classroom on one side, I had arrived. There was a screen and table setup in the front and about thirty chairs facing it. My first thought was –something is not right-. Things were not jiving. I had been out and about knocking on doors pretending to be electioneering for the Mayor but was really working undercover to find out what people thought about the vacant houses and lots. My reconnaissance indicated that there were many people that wanted the lots, would own the lots, maintain the lots, and even pay taxes on the lots. Maybe I was wrong and the City was correct that “nobody” wanted the lots and a tax funded land bank was necessary. At least it did not look like they were prepared for very many bidders.Signing up was easy. I just had to provide my driver’s license, and print and sign my name on a form that said I had never had any property tax delinquency issues. Now that form is something new. Contrary to the propaganda promoting the costly, secretive, Brownfields tax funded land bank/land control proposal that not much has changed in the tax sale process – this is one of those changes. The perpetual offenders that let properties go back can no longer buy them.I moved across the room looking for a place to sit and noticed a doorway into a large gymnasium size room full of chairs with a few people milling around. As a lady was passing I asked if the auction was in the classroom or the gymnasium. She pointed to the big room saying auction and then the other setup, indicating that people would wait there for processing the paperwork after finishing their purchases. Hmm, lots of room for a big crowd. I wonder how many will be interested in these properties no one wants.Moving into the almost vacant sale room I spotted a familiar face. Pastor Steve Ary was sitting 2nd row center. I had visited Pastor Steve last week to look at the tax sale property he bought direct from the Commissioner for $1.00. That a story for another day. I took a seat beside the Pastor and got comfortable with my surroundings as people started streaming in. My camera crew showed up and were able to sit right in front of me. Yes there will be video productions.People just kept coming in. It was time for the auction to start but there seemed to be a delay. There were a few seats left but people started filling the standing room area. An announcement was made that the delay was because there was a line getting people signed up. A lot of people must want the same property. Auctions can be fun, maybe people came to be entertained and are not really interested in bidding.I know three people were looking for the same property: A Mother and son to my front left and their attorney sitting on my right. Yep, I was sandwiched between a preacher and an attorney. (?) But the bigger story is the Mother had an installment contract on the house and the owner did not pay the taxes. Now the county owns it. Common, but this story has a twist you will not believe. I was glad they had an attorney with them until he started asking what the auctioneer was saying between the bids. I explained that when an auctioneer begins their career they use real words to learn there “rant” or “cattle call” and that with experience they slur it into a rhyme of babble that cannot be deciphered. Only the auctioneer knows the word he started with. The auctioneers even get together and have contests on who can guess what the babble started out as. I think he believed me.When the lady’s former property came up for bid they stood together and watched it sell. I anticipated them to bid but they did not. I spoke to them later and tried to offer a little comfort while it appeared the attorney was dealing with the purchaser.Although there are some sad stories to tell, there were plenty of people delighted with their purchases. Especially the ones that were able to buy the vacant lot beside their house. I had a great time and now have firsthand knowledge on how to relieve some of the problems to make the tax sale process better for everyone. There were a few properties that no one came prepared to buy. The auctioneer, being an expert in his trade, was able to use his babble to coax bidders to buy lots they Knew absolutely nothing about for as little as one dollar. I will be telling the one dollar story along with at least a half dozen more. I told my editor that I went there to report the news but actually ended up making the news. Watch for follow up stories.FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailSharelast_img

Leave a Reply