Courthouse-step delinquent property tax auctions have been the practice since time immemorial, and it’s not been unusual to see people gathered on the county courthouse steps in all manner of weather for them, but beginning in April, Glynn County’s property tax auctions are all moving online.
“It’s been something I worked on for about two or three years now,” said Glynn County Tax Commissioner Jeff Chapman. “I … first had to get the law changed, so we can name the location of a sale, and that happened not this (legislative) session we’re in now, but last session, actually.
“My friend Jeff Mullis, Sen. Mullis, was willing to amend one of his bills, and Rep. Don Hogan helped shepherd that through. Once that was accomplished, we … started negotiating an agreement with a company to perform the service, and that took a good while to get all that ironed out.”
The tax commissioner’s office is using a service called GovEase, which is offering online user orientations so people can get accustomed to the new process. There are sessions scheduled for Friday at 2:30 p.m., March 27 at noon and April 2 at 4:30 p.m, each of which lasts one hour. A live training session is scheduled for Monday at 8 a.m. on the third floor of the W. Harold Pate Building at 1725 Reynolds St. It’s set to run for four hours.
Bidders are required to complete and submit the bidder verification form at govease.com.
According to GovEase, people can bid on properties both during the auction, in real time, or beforehand. The system is set up to allow research on properties with satellite mapping software, past tax sale data and results and links to county tax roll data. For the county, the platform allows for tracking of bidder activity and purchases, along with instant tracking of dollars spent.
GovEase does most of its business in Mississippi — for instance, there are 10 Mississippi auctions for eight localities scheduled for April 6. The first Glynn County auction is slated for April 7 at 10 a.m.
“This one here is actually our pilot, our first one,” Chapman said. “We started out with seven properties, but we’re down to six — in other words, the people came in and paid the taxes, and that happens a lot. Anyhow, we wanted to do a smaller one to start with and work out any bugs, and offer a learning curve.”
For the uninitiated, the winner of a delinquent property tax auction doesn’t own the property, but owns the tax deed to the property. The opening bid is the amount of back taxes owed and bids go up from there. If you win, you have to pay the price of your bid and in exchange you get the tax deed for up to a year.
The next move goes to the property owner, who gets the opportunity to pay the auction winner the bid amount, plus an additional 20 percent, to reacquire the tax deed. If the property owner fails to do that, the auction winner can foreclose on the property and take control of it.
As people try to limit their in-person gatherings, the switch to online property auctions comes at a coincidental time.
“It’s ironic that this latest thing has occurred with the virus, but it just — I talked with people over the past here, and other states have been doing this for some time, and Georgia was just behind the times, so we’re actually the first county in Georgia to provide it,” Chapman said.