Buyers line up at annual tax sale

Published 7:51 pm Friday, June 6, 2014

Pike County Revenue Commissioner Curtis Blair (center) auctions off property with unpaid taxes Friday morning. MESSENGER PHOTO | MONA MOORE

Pike County Revenue Commissioner Curtis Blair (center) auctions off property with unpaid taxes Friday morning.

Waymer Messick used to invest in the stock market. But he doesn’t anymore.
“No, I’m afraid of the stock market right now,” he said.
Messick, a resident of Opp, would rather put his money in land. He and his wife joined a few dozen people in the Pike County Courthouse lobby for the annual tax sale Friday morning. About 30 local properties were sold to the highest bidder.
Property taxes were due by Dec. 31, 2013. After that, they started to incur a $5 delinquent fee and 12 percent interest each month. By Friday, interest and late fees had nearly doubled most of the fees.
Pike County Revenue Commissioner Curtis Blair started the bids at the amount of taxes owed. The properties sold at prices ranging from $125.08 for a vacant lot to $20,000 for 5.9 acres on U.S. Highway 231. The latter’s owner owed $884 in overdue taxes.
Some of the properties went for more than they would have last year. Until this year, Pike County had remained under the radar of big spenders.
“We had two bidders bidding from out of the county. A lot of people just go to all the tax sales. These two guys kept bidding against each other,” Blair said.
Messick came armed with a list of properties he wanted and how much he was willing to spend on them.
The properties continue accruing the 12 percent interest for three years. Only now, the interest is on the amount paid at the tax sale.
Rather than paying $884, the original owner of the U.S. Highway 231 parcel will have to pay $20,000 plus 12 percent interest to get the land back.
There is still a small window of reprieve. Blair said original property owners have 10 days from Friday’s sale to pay the owed taxes. In that case, the bidder is refunded the money.
Bidders can bid up to 15 percent of the appraised value of the property. Anything bid above will not accrue the 12 percent interest rate.
Messick did not buy the property to keep it. In fact, he bid on them sight-unseen. He predicted he would never see the deeds his purchases. Blair keeps the deeds for the three years the original owner can return and claim the property.
“Ninety-eight percent of them will pay their taxes,” said Messick.
And those odds are better than he can find investing in the stock market. The 12 percent interest Messick will make on 98 percent of his investments is also better than he could find depositing the money in a bank or money market account.
The property sale does have its pitfalls.
“There’s some risk to it if you happen to buy one with a federal lien on it,” Messick said.
As the new landowner, Messick inherits that debt. The new owners are also responsible for annual taxes on the properties.
The commission started advertising delinquent payments in May. The ads ran for three consecutive Tuesdays.
Blair acted as auctioneer for the tax sale. “I do it every year. It’s part of the job,” he said.
He included warnings for properties that could not be built upon, like a Brundidge alley that was auctioned off this year.
Property taxes are used to benefit a number of institutions in the county. “We collect for eight different agencies,” Blair said.
“We collect for the cities of Troy, Brundidge and Goshen, the Pike County General Fund, the Pike County Road and Bridge Fund, both school systems in the county, and the State of Alabama General Fund. The taxes really help to keep everything in the county up and running.”
For questions or more information regarding taxes owed, call the Revenue Commissioner’s office at 566-1792.

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