More tax liens for sale, but fewer buyers expected

In recent, more prosperous years, the cups of coffee and boxes of doughnuts set out during Mesa County’s tax lien sale have been gobbled up quickly, as hundreds of potential investors with extra cash snapped up liens in the hopes that someone else’s misfortune pays off for them down the road.

Today, however, the coffee may grow cold and the doughnuts stale.

The recession has boosted the number of property owners who were unable to pay their taxes while simultaneously putting fewer investors in a position to bid on parcels.

A total of 1,270 parcels carrying a little more than $1.8 million in tax liens are up for sale at 9 a.m. today at Two Rivers Convention Center. That’s far more than the 750 parcels with less than $1.2 million in liens that were sold last year, according to the Mesa County Treasurer’s Office.

That means a process that took an hour and a half last year could drag out for three hours today, Treasurer Monika Todd said.

Todd said it’s the most tax lien sales she’s presided over in her seven years as treasurer.

“I attribute all of this to the current economy, because people cannot make their tax payments on their houses,” she said. “It’s kind of a parallel with the (increase in) foreclosures.”

County officials charged with collecting the unpaid property taxes say this year’s sale is unique also because it includes entire empty subdivisions.

Some buyers are ready to take possession of that bag, although there are likely to be fewer of them this year. Todd said there were 190 buyers as of late Tuesday afternoon, and although people can still register for an hour today beginning at 8 a.m., the final number likely will fall short of the 273 buyers last year.

For Linda Hartter, a former real estate agent who has attended tax lien sales for years, this is an opportunity to make a long-term investment and achieve a greater return than other methods.

“As a vehicle, it really usually beats anything else, as long as you can leave the money invested,” she said.

Tax lien buyers are guaranteed a 10 percent return. If property owners do not pay their property taxes for three years, the person who buys the certificates may receive a deed for the property. Todd noted, though, that the deed is transferred in less than 1 percent of all purchases.


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