Rare midyear tax auction fills county tax coffers

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Erie County officials held a rare midyear tax foreclosure, Tuesday at the Central Library, designed to catch some of the foreclosed properties whose owners have managed to dodge the annual sales held each October.

Joseph Maciejewski, Director of Real Property Tax Services for Erie County said each year a few owners of tax foreclosed properties file bankruptcy on the eve of the annual tax sale, which blocks the county from selling those foreclosures.

Maciejewski said some owners file bankruptcy every year before the auction, whom he calls “serial filers”, while other owners go to court and enter repayment agreements, but renege.

“And the judge had given them 120 days to make good on the back taxes. Several people, we did not see a penny, and we sold a couple of those properties this morning–today happened to be day 121.”

The county’s midyear auction started with 50 delinquent properties, but that number was whittled down by owners who paid their back taxes at the last minute, and Maciejewski said about a dozen properties were pulled off the block because their owners, once again, got a last minute reprieve at bankruptcy court.

By the time the gavel dropped Tuesday morning, 20 properties remained on the auction block, ranging from eyesores to “eye candy”—relatively speaking—and 14 of those properties sold. The county netted $696,000 from the auction and the last minute payments.

There was industrial property—for instance two lots that used to be part of General Motors in the Town of Tonawanda, and are now superfund sites, that did not sell.

No one wanted a rundown former house-converted-to-office that has been vacant for years, that is also in Tonawanda. The reasons for the lack of interest seemed obvious.

But a house on a dead end street in the Village of Lancaster sold for $66,000, and based on outside appearances—the grass was cut and the shrubs trimmed–the buyer probably got a good deal. Maciejewski estimated the house’s value at $80,000 to $90,000.

Rocky O’Brien seemed to know all about the little Cape, as he was remodeling the house next door. O’Brien is a home improvement contract, and sided the house back in about 1980 for the original owner who died a few years ago.

Rocky said he was good friends with the woman’s son, and he believes the new owner is getting a good deal.

“The roof is fairly new–a few years old–a friend of mine put the roof on the house,” and O’Brien’s siding job, from 36 years ago, seems to be holding up.

O’Brien found the sale of the house to be sad and ironic, as the former owner’s son has been caring for the property, but lost the house because he didn’t pay the property taxes.

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