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Spokane County netted $125,000 during its online foreclosure auction

Spokane County’s first-ever online auction of foreclosed properties earlier this month generated 29 parcel sales and more than $125,000 in unpaid taxes and delinquencies.

In a break from traditional end-of-year live auctions, the county’s Treasurer’s office opted for the online method to determine if more bidders took part, leading to more sales.

The jury is still out on whether online is the best way to go, but Chief Deputy Treasurer Mike Volz said by some yardsticks, the online experiment was successful.

Originally planned in December, the online bidding was postponed until March, to give owners more time to pay off bills.

Volz said that allowed owners of 16 delinquent parcels enough time to redeem the roughly $150,000 in taxes, fees and penalty interest they owed.

Had those 16 parcels been included in the online auction, they would have likely been the most sought-after properties, he said. As a result, the county now plans to have all future auctions held in January or February, Volz said.

The county, by law, has to auction off parcels that have three or more years of unpaid taxes and fees.

The Treasurer’s office is still not ready to decide whether to try another online auction.

“We need to do some more slicing and dicing to be sure if it’s the right method,” he said.

By one measure, the live 2011 auction produced more money in recovered taxes. It generated $154,282 for the county in 2011.

The online auction produced $130,247 in sales, but the county also paid $4,350 of that amount to the company that ran the online event.

But by another measure — purchase price as a percent of a parcel’s assessed value — the online auction was better, Volz said.

The live auction’s 27 parcels netted about 35 percent of the property’s valuation. The March online auction produced sales at 49 percent of property values, he said.