If you’ve been driving around the Sullivan County over the past few weeks, you’ve may have seen some yellow “NYSAuctions” signs popping up on properties. That means the annual county tax foreclosure auction is just around the corner. This year it’s Wed. June 10 at the Lodge at Rock Hill.
There are about 500 parcels listed for auction, but there will probably be less on the day of the auction if some properties are ‘redeemed’ by owners or lien holders. You can see the full list at NYSAuctions.com. There may be a few diamonds in the rough, but overall the tax auction has a lot more chaff than wheat. You need to be savvy and do your homework before bidding on properties. A lot of amateurs get caught up in the bidding frenzy, and pick up property ‘for a song’ that in the end may be close to useless. The county makes no warranties about usability or buildability or anything beyond giving you title.
Every year, in the couple of months following the auction, I get calls from excited owners of a ‘steal’ they picked up at the auction, looking to flip it and make a buck. But in a lot of cases, the property they picked up cheap isn’t really marketable. This is particularly true with some of the raw land parcels that may be too small to be buildable, have wetlands or other restrictions, be ‘landlocked’ with a right of way that may permit access but doesn’t have a utility easement to bring in power, or may be on a ‘paper road’ — where the parcel has a road name, but the road was never cut to it.
I don’t get involved with clients bidding at the auction, but I do have a few tips if you want to jump in. Have your attorney run a title search before the auction. Check flood zone and wetlands maps. Talk to the building department of the town the property is located in to find out what you can actually do with it. Visit the property. Properties with structures will generally be open for a couple of hours the two days prior to the auction. (Bring a flashlight, because there likely won’t be power.) Look for things like buried oil tanks. If you do your due diligence before hand, there will be fewer surprises downline.