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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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County’s first online auction of foreclosed properties mixed

On plus side, top bids paid higher percentage of assessed value than at last live auction

Spokane County’s first online auction of foreclosed properties earlier this month generated 29 parcel sales and more than $125,000 to cover unpaid taxes on the properties.

In a break from traditional end-of-year live auctions, the county treasurer’s office opted for the online method to find out if more bidders would take 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.

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

Originally planned for 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 pay off 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.

Because of that, Volz said, the most notable outcome of the March auction was the decision to hold future auctions in January or February.

The treasurer’s office has still not decided 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 2011 live auction produced more money in recovered taxes, generating $154,282 for the county. The online auction produced $130,247, but the county also paid $4,350 of that to the company that ran the auction.

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

The 2011 auction’s 27 parcels netted about 35 percent of the properties’ valuation. The online auction produced sales at 49 percent of property values, he said.

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