While house prices have skyrocketed across the country, some people can still get a great deal by buying in Brunswick County.
In recent years, the Brunswick County government has bought foreclosed properties and resold them through a thwarted auction process, in the hopes that this may facilitate the transfer of ownership from a delinquent owner. to an owner who pays taxes.
When a property is foreclosed, members of the public can bid on the property through an auction process, Deputy County Manager Steve Stone said.
“Usually what happens is that the public isn’t really interested in the plot, so the county is the top bidder and we would bid the amount of taxes owed and our costs for going through the process,” he said. Stone said. “If others don’t offer more for the property than the value of the taxes owed to us, the county buys the property.”
What was sold?
Over the past year, the county has sold approximately 40 properties through this process, with offers ranging from $ 700 to over $ 9,000.
Brunswick County Public Information Officer Meagan Kascsak said in fiscal 2021 the county generated $ 62,625.37 in revenue from its sales of surplus properties.
Want more news from Brunswick ?: Like our Facebook page for everything related to Brunswick County
But some of those properties have sold for tens of thousands of dollars below their estimated tax value, and some are even selling for less than the county has paid for them.
A 2.64-acre Shallotte property valued at over $ 67,000 was sold to a Manhattan Beach, Calif., Real estate investment group last year for $ 9,315. The county paid $ 9,312.15 for the property in 2020, making a profit of just under $ 3.
Stone said that although the county generates income from sales, the goal is not to make money but to speed up the transfer of ownership.
Most properties are residential, but without access to sewer or water services, they are of no use to the county.
“We’re not normally in the homebuilding business and a lot of them… are in areas that weren’t suitable for conventional septic systems,” Stone said. “So it wasn’t going to be easy for people to build a house.”
Development: Brunswick construction boom continues with five more developments awaiting approval
How are the properties sold?
To ensure the county gets a fair deal on sales, about five years ago, the County of Brunswick created a policy setting a minimum bid for bids. Before that, the county decided on each offer individually.
The policy describes one measure for properties owned by the county for 10 years or more and another for those held for less than 10 years.
“We just sat down and looked at what seemed reasonable parameters for setting the threshold, and then we recommended a policy to the board and they approved it,” Stone said.
For properties held for 10 years or more, an offer must be at least $ 750 or 25% of its current tax value, whichever is greater.
In the past year, however, a 0.24 acre property in Boiling Spring Lakes has sold for less than its minimum allowable bid. The Maple Drive property was purchased in 1986 with a current tax value of $ 11,000, but was sold to Maryland resident Michael William Watts for just $ 2,000, which is $ 750 less than the minimum required by the policy on the basis of its tax value.
“Our tax values are based on mass appraisals, it’s not like a business appraiser goes to every tax parcel in Brunswick County and does a real valuation appraisal,” Stone said.
“We think our tax values on the whole reflect market value very accurately, but it’s fair when you explore it down to the level of an individual parcel, that it may not be exactly the market value an given day. Honestly. market value is subjective. “
Due to the county’s buying policy, several properties were also sold for thousands less than the county paid for them, although technically meeting the minimum bid requirement.
North Carolina resident Michael Westmorland paid just $ 1,500 in total for a pair of 0.38 acre Boiling Spring Lakes properties the county bought in 2006 for more than $ 4,650 each. The county lost over $ 7,000 on those sales.
For properties held for less than 10 years, an offer must be at least the cost paid by the county for the property or 50% of its current tax value, whichever is less. Most of the properties the county has sold in the past year fall into this category.
This led to the sale of several properties for pennies more than the cost of the county, although they were appraised for a much higher value.
Two 2-acre properties in Boiling Spring Lakes valued at $ 30,000 each, for example, were sold to Jesse and Felicia Jayne for $ 2,600 and $ 3,012 respectively. The first property brought in less than $ 82 in revenue for the county, while the other was sold at cost.
Most of these properties are not considered to be in high demand, with many irregular shapes. A parcel, for example, is about 30 feet wide and 1,100 feet long, which was probably used for a railroad.
“A lot of them have never built a house on it, but it’s residential land,” Stone said. “There are a few junk which obviously I’m not sure exactly how the packages even came into being.”
Most buyers seem to be interested in these properties as an investment or to eventually build a home when the area’s infrastructure grows, Stone said.
In the past year, only three properties have sold for more than their estimated tax value, all located in Shallotte to the same Fayetteville resident.
Anyone interested in Brunswick County’s available surplus property can visit https://www.brunswickcountync.gov/surplus-land/.
Journalist John Orona can be reached at 910-343-2327 or [email protected]