Friday, December 19, 2008

Tax foreclosure auction

Snohomish county held its tax foreclosure auction today in the auditorium of the local utility. It was lightly attended, maybe 100 people. After watching the property list for weeks only one parcel remained that I was interested in; the rest were either redeemed or withdrawn. Not sure what it means when it's withdrawn.

I purchased 9 acres of good bottomland for $2700 an acre, which i considered a good deal. I walked the property today but will have to wait until it thaws to see the lay of the land. It was formerly used as a dairy farm, so chances are good its got canary grass planted on it; a good, hardy forage grass, suitable for my farming.

Lots of the parcels sold were fractional ownership shares of private roads or bits and pieces of lots that were trimmed off for reasons unknown. four or five small lots with vacation cabins, couple of lots that were listed as "currently underwater" -- but still sold.

The terms of the auction were payment at time of bid, so I had a handful of cashiers checks in various denominations. All in all a pretty good day.


Maya said...

Where were you able to check the listings slated for auction? I've been searching for a small bit of reasonable land in Western WA and have had a hard time finding the actual county auction sales (instead of someones get rich quick dvd package/subscription solution).

Bruce King said...

In washington state, the county treasurer is is responsible for the auction and you'll find information there a few months in advance of the auction. The snohomish county treasurers' website can be found at

The tax auctions are held in december, so start looking for a property list and so on in october or so, or call them direct.
Starting a couple of months before the auction they'll list the parcel number, size and some basic information about the property; I spent three weekends driving to various properties and walking them to see what was there. My biggest worry was some sort of environmental issue that would follow the property and become my issue -- like toxic waste, or spilled fuel or piles of tires or whatever.

The whole "get rich quick at tax auctions" are a variety of minor-league scams, in my opinion. for hundreds or thousands of dollars they give you what basically amounts to a date and time.

I bought an hour or so of attorney time to walk through the issues of buying a tax foreclosed property. The biggest issue was there is a right of redemption for a year afterwards if the owners of the property were mentally ill or incompetent or a couple of other reasons. For that reason I'm not going to do much with the property for a year, other than have it surveyed so I know where the property lines are and can correct any potential adverse posession issues that might arise.