Those looking for real estate bargains in Walker County, Ga., may want to mark Feb. 7 on their calendars.
At 10 a.m. that day, about 94 properties whose owners were at least two years behind on property tax payments are scheduled for auction on the county courthouse steps in LaFayette, Ga.
Properties still on the list Friday include a residence valued at $34,317 on a half acre in unincorporated Walker County for which bidding will start at $2,361 -- the amount of back taxes due.
But potential bidders are advised to stop by the tax commissioner's office, get a list of properties and take a close look before buying, because not every property is a dream home.
"We saw a lot of burned-out shells. There are a lot of abandoned properties," said Deputy Tax Commissioner Karen N. Walker, who spent two days helping to place what she calls "giant yellow signs" on the front lawns of delinquent properties.
And all 94 properties may not still be available on auction day.
Those eye-catching signs and a list in a weekly newspaper naming people with delinquent properties recently prompted about 50 people to come in and pay their back taxes.
"It doesn't really seem to light a fire under people until they see their name in the paper," Walker said.
And even if a bidder is successful, the original owner has a year to reclaim the property by paying what the bidder paid, plus 20 percent, said tax specialist Kathy Biddle. Winning bidders aren't supposed to touch the properties for that one-year period, she said.
Despite those caveats, "we have some [people] that come to every single sale. It's a money-making thing," Biddle said.
For a list of tax-delinquent properties in Walker County, stop by the tax commissioner's office in LaFayette at 101 Farris St. or in Rossville at 2012 McFarland Gap Road.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.