ALBION — Consider it a good year for the county tax sale: There were very few properties still delinquent by the time of the auction and the county collected more unpaid taxes compared to last year.
A total of 41 properties were listed in Friday’s sale, with the county seeking to recover $314,681.58 in back taxes. That amount was down from 46 properties on the annual sale in 2018.
The initial tax sale listing advertised in August had 148 properties listed, meaning that owners redeemed more than 100 delinquent properties accounting for about $250,000 in unpaid taxes and fees. A property is eligible for tax sale if an owner has missed at least three consecutive payments, totaling at least 18 months delinquent.
Of those 41 properties available Friday, 28 sold, recouping $92,749.80 for the county. Total bids including surplus bids in the sale hit $572,846.16 on Friday.
Buyers at the tax sale don’t get immediate rights to the property, but instead purchase a tax lien on the property. The delinquent property owners still have one year to pay the redemption amount on their property and retain ownership.
“You’re going to buy a lien. You’re not going to buy a piece of property today,” explained Joe Edwards of SRI Inc., which runs the county tax sale, before the auction began. “You’re not going to get a special piece of paper that will allow you to go onto the property.”
Leinholders earn 10% interest on the overdue tax amount, which increases to 15% after six months, as well as 5% interest on any surplus bid on the property, if it redeems within the first year.
If the original property owner does not pay their back taxes, and proper notice has been given to any entities with a substantial financial interest in the property, the lienholder can petition the court for a tax deed. If approved, the lienholder is then able to usurp legal title to the property.
“This is a buyer beware sale … nobody has given you any warnings on this property,” Edwards said.
The county was able to collect only 29.5% of the amount that was overdue, but that’s in part to one property accounting for more than half of the delinquent total. The parking lot at the Kendallville Event Center, which is owned by the now-defunct development corporation Rainstar Inc., owes $163,142.98 in overdue taxes but, as usual, no one bid on the property.
The event center parking lot has been the No. 1 most delinquent property in the county ever since Kendallville took ownership of the former McCray Refrigerator factory in 2018. It’s the fourth year in a row the property hasn’t sold on tax sale.
Although the parking lot primarily serves the event center, in the past the property was divided so that the building and lot were separate parcels.
The event center building, which is currently owned by Goeglein’s Catering, is current on taxes. The building was listed for sale in July for $1.5 million via commercial real estate broker Bradley Company, without the attached parking lot.
Another frequent flier on the list, Pipeline Properties overdue at $12,724.66, also didn’t sell again. That property, a small, landlocked piece of ground surrounded by the concrete plant in Wolcottville, is an effectively useless piece of ground that continues to accumulate more taxes each year.
A trio of properties owned by Cromwell-based KRE Assets LLC also were among the unsold properties on Friday’s sale. One of those is a vacant lot on the south end of town at 132 S. Jefferson St., located on the west side of the S.R. 5 and Senior Way intersection. Two others are residential properties, one vacant lot at 742 S. Oakwood Drive in Cromwell and the other at 2554 S. Jarr St. on High Lake.
Those three properties total about $5,600 in unpaid taxes. KRE Assets owns more than 30 properties in Noble County, most located in Cromwell, but remains delinquent only on those three.
Three other properties that didn’t sell all are lots that have recently had homes demolished on them.
The property at 611 Jackson St. in Rome City, owned by Lora Gage, did not sell. Rome City recently condemned and demolished the house, leaving an empty lot. With $5,615.20 due — a large amount in Rome City sewer and mowing liens — none of the buyers were interested in that property.
Two others are in Kendallville. The city demolished both 122 E. Wayne St., owned by Robert P. Wolford ($1,574.83 overdue) and 117 Sargent St., owned by Kenneth Hoover ($2,165.82 overdue) within the last year.