3 hours ago
Friday, October 26, 2012
Tax foreclosure auction, 2012: What recovery?
I go to the county tax foreclosure auction every year, and I do so because I find that it's a pretty good place to purchase agricultural properties, but I'll buy just about any kind of real estate if it appears to be a good value.
One way to measure the current health of the local economy is to look at what sorts of properties are being auctioned off, what the value of the property is, and how many properties there are in the sale.
In 2008, there were 47 properties in the sale. I ended up purchasing a 9 acre parcel that I use for seasonal grazing of cattle, and a couple of building lots. None of the properties in this auction were what I would consider "prime" real estate -- every parcel had some issue or other that made it less valuable.
In 2009 I purchased a couple of improved building lots (electricity, water) and the quality offered had improved. There were 54 properties in the sale.
In 2010 I purchased a 3br 2ba townhouse that was 6 years old for $101k; that was the most expensive property at the auction that year, but the quality was again better. There were 65 properties at the sale.
I didn't attend the 2011 auction
The 2012 tax foreclosure auction has 345 properties.
Unlike banks, the county sells the properties when they get to a particular point -- regardless of the state of the economy or the real estate market in general. So unlike banks, who can keep a property off the market for years, the county auction is a pretty honest reflection of how the real estate market, and generally, the local economy, is faring.
There are million dollar houses being auctioned. There's a 50 room commercial hotel in lynnwood. There's over 100 building lots. It's not a single group of people, this is as widespread a sale as I've ever seen.
Over the next 6 weeks, properties will be removed from the list, but I think it's safe to say that this tax sale will be the largest that has happened in this county for at least 10 years.
No matter what the media or the government says about the economy, by this indicator, we are farther in a hole than we have ever been in my lifetime.