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August 15, 2013

County nets $650K from land auction

By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Having never attended an auction of tax-delinquent properties before, Daniel Groover of Schenevus said he wasn’t quite sure what to expect when he stepped inside a meeting room Wednesday morning at the Holiday Inn on state Route 23 in the town of Oneonta.

But before the day was out, he was confident enough in the deals he was seeing presented to the buying public to be the high bidder for two separate properties, one of which sits on 11 acres on Axtell Road in the town of Maryland and has a small ranch house on it.

That property will cost Groover $36,000, plus an 11 percent buyer’s premium.

“I’m going to move into that one,” said Groover, who until recently worked as a licensed practical nurse at the Otsego Manor nursing home just south of Cooperstown.

The second property he acquired is a 34-acre lot off Konchar Road in the town of Milford. “I’m going to use that for a wood lot and for hunting,” he said, noting he bid just $7,000 for that spread of acreage.

Groover was among more than 50 people who saw a strong investment value in the properties offered by Otsego County’s government at its second auction coordinated by Edward Haroff, of Haroff Auction & Realty of Schroon Lake.

For the county, the goal was to recoup as much as possible of the amount owed to the county by the previous owners who had fallen into serious arrears on their taxes, as well as to get those properties back on the tax rolls, said acting Treasurer Henry “Russ” Bachman.

The county took in a total of $658,950 for the 54 units that were sold at the Holiday Inn. The amount of delinquent taxes owed to the county, going into Wednesday morning, stood at $678,817, said Bachman.

“We’re very happy we came close to what was owed to the county, and we now have 54 properties back on the tax rolls,” he said.

The amount taken in would have exceeded the delinquency amount were it not for two problems where the back taxes had escalated significantly.

The former West End Auto Repair property located at 460 Chestnut St., which had a history of environmental problems that delayed its tax sale, sold for just $21,000. The amount of taxes owed owned on that property had soared to $117,230, Bachman said.

A property located at 320 County Highway 48 in Otego that sold for $17,000 Wednesday had a delinquency of $63,982, the acting treasurer said.

Several bidders interviewed by The Daily Star said they were looking for investment properties that they could rent out after fixing them up or to put back on the market at a higher price.

Rhonda Mason and Mark Roe of East Meredith, prior to the sale, examined a two-story, one-family home at 53 Miller St., Oneonta, that carried an assessed value of $80,882. They snapped it up Wednesday for $11,000, plus the buyer’s premium.

“We’ve never done this before,” said Mason.

Roe said the house appears to need a new roof and an assortment of other work. Undaunted by the challenge, Roe said, “I’ve been doing that kind of work all my life.”

They said they plan to find tenants once they complete the repairs.

Dave De Rosa, an industrial equipment dealer from Schenectady who noted he has had experience bidding on delinquent properties, purchased a lot of just over two acres on the Schenevus Creek, off Loft Road in the town of Maryland, for $3,000.

Though he was the backup bidder — the second highest — he still got to purchase it, he said, because the high bidder realized belatedly that he thought he was bidding on a different property. Had it not been for the other bidder’s confusion, De Rosa said, he would have been able to pay less for the property.

“The prices are decent here,” he said. “We found the prices in Schoharie County to be a little higher. We’ve bought some other property in this area, and we like it here.”

Haroff, who runs similar tax auctions for a slew of upstate counties, said the top bids for a number of properties appeared to be remarkably low, especially against the backdrop of a real estate market he said is beginning to recover.

For instance, two similarly designed Cape Cod style homes in New Lisbon, each sitting on more than three acres, sold for less than $25,000 each.

New Lisbon Town Supervisor Bob Taylor, who was at the Holiday Inn for a meeting unrelated to the auction, said he is pleased to see the properties coming back on the local tax roll.

“It’ll be wonderful to have people living in them,” he said.