'VINE-COVERED COTTAGE'
A real estate agent might describe 716 Branch St. in Simmesport as a “quiet, cozy, vine-covered cottage” or a “fixer-upper.” Truth is, nature has pretty much reclaimed the property, which is one of five parcels of parish-maintained properties the Avoyelles Police Jury hopes to auction in the near future. {Photo courtesy of Leslie Draper III}

Avoyelles Police Jury ‘tax sale property’ meeting generates interest

Potential buyers learn process of online auction

About a dozen potential buyers attended an informational meeting on the Avoyelles Parish Police Jury’s new program to sell adjudicated -- or “tax sale” -- properties on its books.

At this time, there are five sites listed on the CivicSource website seeking potential bidders. One of the five has attracted at least one interested party who has put up an $850 deposit to get the process moving. That parcel is on Boggy Bayou Road near Marksville.

Beau Byers, a real estate attorney with CivicSource, said the company was created following Hurricane Katrina when many property owners in the New Orleans area abandoned their storm-damaged homes.

CivicSource helped to track down property owners to pursue tax payments and to help taxing authorities sell the abandoned properties. The company now helps parish and municipal governments around Louisiana and in a few other states to sell adjudicated properties and return them to the tax rolls.

Police Jury President Charles Jones said the parish “just wants to dispose of our adjudicated property. We want to stop having to cut the grass on these little lots around the parish and return the property to the tax rolls.”

Byers said adjudicated properties are those parcels that did not sell at a sheriff’s tax sale for five years and the taxes are still delinquent. At that time, the properties are turned over to the parish to manage. The five Avoyelles Parish properties have all been under Police Jury control for at least 10 years.

Byers said CivicSource sells title insurance with each piece of property it sells. That ensures the buyer has clear title to the property and that a long-lost heir won’t show up and stake a claim to the property. CivicSource tracks down all known heirs as part of its pre-auction work.

FIGHTS BLIGHT & CRIME

Abandoned houses not only look bad but can attract illegal activities, Byers said. For that reason, this program not only returns property to commerce and removes a cost and responsibility from the local government, it also fights blight and crime.

The average starting cost of a piece of property is $4,800, Byers said. That cost has little to do with the size of the parcel or its market value. It reflects the cost of tracking down heirs and completing all necessary paperwork for the sale.

Before a property is put up for auction, it has to be “nominated” by a potential buyer who is willing to submit an $850 deposit. If that person wins the auction, the deposit is applied toward the final cost. If he loses, the deposit is refunded. If he or any other bidder does not bid at least enough to cover all closing costs, he forfeits the deposit and can be banned from participating in future auctions.

CivicSource Investor Relations Manager Madelyn Duran said the Police Jury has 70 potential parcels of property to put up for auction.

The process takes about three months from the time a deposit is submitted to put the property up for auction to the day of the online auction. Most of that time is legally mandated waiting periods to give potential heirs time to respond.

Should an heir come forward with an interest to retain the property, they would be given an opportunity to redeem the property. If that happens, the deposit will be returned to the potential bidder.

Byers said the property still technically belongs to the previous owner. The parish merely maintains it. However, once the process is finished the previous owner and/or heirs relinquish all rights to the property.

If a parcel with closing costs of $4,800 is sold for a high bid of $10,000, the additional $5,200 would go to the Police Jury. If the closing costs are $4,800 and only one person bids that amount, then the property is essentially purchased for $0 plus closing costs, which is paid to CivicSource.

TITLE INSURANCE

“Title insurance allows you to get a mortgage or a loan to improve that property,” Byers said.

“The property may not seem like it is worth the closing costs of, on average, $4,800,” Duran said. “The investor is not necessarily looking at what that property is worth now, in its current condition, but what it will be worth once improvements are made to it in the future.”

Those interested in participating can go to civicsource.com and click on the adjudicated property tab to view available properties in not only Avoyelles but surrounding parishes.

Adjoining landowners who have maintained the adjudicated parcel for at least a year -- such as mow the grass -- can purchase the property for the closing costs only and would not have to compete for the property at auction.

Police Juror Marsha Wiley, who is heading the jury’s program, said she was pleased with the interest shown in the meeting.
“This is a way to get property back into the hands of the public and receive taxes for the parish,” she said. “These properties have been off the tax books for at least 10 years. It’s time to do something with them.”

AVOYELLES JOURNAL
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