Last updated: April 25. 2014 11:37PM - 2340 Views
By - jandes@timesleader.com

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The former Plains Lumber Co. property on South Oak Street in Plains Township was the top seller in last week’s Luzerne County back-tax auction, fetching $40,000 after a bidding war.

Bidder Joan Reed, Moosic, acquired the property, records show.

Assessed at $239,900, the 7.25-acre property includes a commercial structure, county records show. Robert and Janet Keeley had purchased it for $200,000 in 2002 from Dan Rozanski, who started the business in 1972.

Bidding on the property started at $971 Thursday at the county courthouse in Wilkes-Barre because it was among 43 properties that did not sell at a prior auction.

These judicial or “free-and-clear” properties have been cleared of taxes, liens and mortgages. Most bids start under $1,000 because buyers were required to pay only the expenses to sell the building, such as legal and advertising fees.

Auction proceeds beyond the sales expenses and transfer taxes are split among the appropriate taxing bodies.

A total 28 properties sold for a combined $167,325 in the free-and-clear auction, according to Northeast Revenue Service LLC, the county’s tax claim operator.

The 15 that did not sell will join around 700 others in the repository, a pool of properties stuck in limbo because they didn’t sell in past auctions and continue to pile up unpaid taxes. The new additions include two parcels on Park Avenue in Exeter owned by FM Inc. that contain utility structures, records show.

Another 43 properties were up for grabs in a first-stage upset sale Thursday. Four sold for a combined $52,435, according to Northeast Revenue.

Most of the properties in the upset sale had defaulted payment plans. Northeast Revenue held the special sale so the property owners couldn’t get to wait until an annual upset sale in September to address their debts.

The strategy prompted many to pay to keep their properties out of the sale. A total 245 properties originally were listed.

Three owners of properties in the upset sale obtained court orders granting them more time to come up with payments. Four also filed bankruptcies to get their properties out of the sale, including relatives of the late Selma Wootton, Northeast Revenue said.

Nine properties in Warrior Run owned by Wootton were pulled from the upset sale, including several vacant-land parcels.

Upset sales are less popular because liens and back taxes are still attached to the properties.

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