published Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Hamilton County back-tax property sales spike

Delinquent property sales

Below are the results of delinquent property sales from 2007 to 2013:

Year // Parcels // Sales

2007 // 39 // $182,512

2008 // 26 // $76,400

2009 // 21 // $27,950

2010 // 24 // $54,543

2011 // 51 // $145,583

2012 // 71 // $142,471

2013 // 138 // $938,000

Source: Hamilton County

At the start of the Great Recession, 191 properties in Hamilton County plunged into tax delinquency. Now, after a requisite five years of being shuffled by courts from the private sector into county ownership, more than half of the lots are back on the tax rolls.

That's after Hamilton County Real Property Manager Paul Parker recorded a blowout year in back-tax property sales this month.

"There was just a tremendous amount of interest and competition for the properties this year," Parker said.

Tremendous is right.

Of the 191 properties on the auction block, 138 of them sold for just under $1 million. And 43 of those sold included structures. The county picked up $938,000 in revenue from the sales, according to county records.

Those figures are far from typical.

Last year, 71 properties sold, with revenue totalling $142,471. In the 2008 sale, there were 26 properties sold to the tune of $76,400.

In fact, more money was made in this year's sale than the last six combined.

Parker said both the supply and demand were high. There were more properties on the list as a result of the economic downturn that began in 2008, but there were also more bidders this year than usual.

"Normally, we've gone through about 100 bidders. We had 747 bids at our bid opening this year," Parker said.

Next year could be more of the same, as properties that fell victim to the Great Recession in 2009 cycle through the system, Parker said.

The majority of bidders this year were construction or rental companies, but some private residents sought deals in the hopes of making money on the properties, or "flipping" them, Parker said.

"Sometimes they do that," Parker said. "Sometimes [properties] end up in more desirable areas and people choose to rehab them and live in them."

Money earned during the sale of delinquent properties is sent to the Clerk and Master's Office to cover costs of attempting to collect back-taxes and to pay outstanding court costs. The remainder is then split between Hamilton County and other municipalities to which taxes are owed, Parker said.

Parker said the big sale is a good sign for the local economy.

"The only thing I could speculate on is that people had more money saved and were comfortable enough with it to invest in real estate," Parker said. "What's encouraging is that people are seeing Chattanooga and Hamilton County as a good investment."

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrondon@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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