Local news

County uses Internet to do its foreclosed parcel bidding

Web-based auction service takes over annual sell-off of properties

Spokane County’s annual end-of-year auction of foreclosed properties is getting a digital makeover.

The Dec. 3-4 sale will be the county’s first online auction. County officials hired Bid4Assets.com, a Maryland company, to manage the event.

County Treasurer Rob Chase said the goal is to reach more potential bidders and sell more foreclosed properties.

The first auction will determine whether live auctions are a thing of the past. “If we don’t like the result, the county could always go back to live auctions,” said Deputy Treasurer Mike Volz.

Bidding starts at the amount owed to the county in back taxes, interest and fees incurred by the delinquent property owner. The buyer of the property also pays a $150 per-parcel fee, which is how much the county pays to Bid4Assets. Anything above that goes to the owner of the property.

“It’s a bit like eBay, in letting people see the items being auctioned, then letting them bid online,” Chase said.

Other counties, including Benton and Thurston, have used online auctions with good results, said Volz.

The county has about 115 properties in foreclosure. That number will likely drop to below 100 before the auction, Volz said, as owners pay off delinquencies.

The traditional end-of-year auction has been held at the Spokane County Courthouse. Chase said those auctions typically drew 30 to 50 people. “But you could tell people there who saw ‘professionals’ bidding felt intimidated,” he said.

The online choice should eliminate that anxiety, he added. “But I will kind of miss the live auction atmosphere,” Chase said.

December’s listings include five parcels on the distressed Ridpath Hotel block. The one parcel with the largest delinquency – for $89,793 – is the former “YWCA” building at 502 W. First. Its onetime owners, Spokane Holdings 1 LLC, had hoped to turn the building into condos.

Interested bidders need to create an account with Bid4Assets, said Chase.

Volz noted that the county has seen the number of properties in foreclosure rising. In 2009 there were 156 parcels in foreclosure; in 2010 it grew to 206. In 2011, the total was 209.

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