County sells 63 properties at back-tax auction

Last updated: September 19. 2013 11:43PM - 6349 Views
By - jandes@timesleader.com

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Philadelphia resident Roland Oris purchased 28 properties at Thursday’s Luzerne County’s back-tax auction for $191,238.

The inventory he acquired with this investment: 22 houses, a mobile home on 1.23 acres, three vacant lots, an apartment building at 385 Scott St. in Wilkes-Barre and the former Choice gas station and cigarette mart on state Route 309 in Hazle Township.

These properties have a combined assessed value of $2.5 million, records show.

Veteran county tax auction bidder Glenn Keller of Jim Thorpe, who assisted Oris with the bidding Thursday, said Oris plans to straighten out title issues and outstanding liens and address repairs so the properties can be sold or rented.

The homes purchased by Oris include a 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom home built around 1980 on South Ridge Court in Hazle Township and a 1,800-square-foot home built in 1985 on 3 acres in Butler Township.

Minimum bids at the first-stage upset sale were set high enough to cover all back taxes and municipal utility liens, which makes it less popular than the free-and-clear auction when all taxes and liens are forgiven.

Keller had been the lead buyer in the previous year’s September upset sale, purchasing 54 properties.

Edwardsville resident Keith Scott, a regular at county back-tax auctions, bid around $39,000 Thursday to acquire six residential properties in Wilkes-Barre and said he plans to fix them up.

His new holdings are at 562 N. Main St. , 12 S. Meade St., 291 Madison St., 80 Wyoming St. and 468 and 524 N. Washington St.

Scott said his intervention will return the properties to the tax rolls.

“I try to help the community wherever I can,” he said.

A total 65 properties sold Thursday out of 663 up for grabs, generating $477,668 in transfer taxes, recording fees and property tax revenue for the county, school districts and municipalities.

Another 60 properties were removed from the sale. The owners of four properties entered into agreements to pay their debt in installments within a year. Sixteen paid their debt, and three filed for bankruptcy protection. The remaining 37 will be listed in the Nov. 14 sale if their outstanding tax bills aren’t resolved by then.

The county’s Tax Claim Office, operated by Northeast Revenue Service LLC, was swamped in recent days with people who paid to keep their properties out of the sale.

Around 1,850 properties were eligible for the sale on Sept. 9 because they carried back taxes dating back at least two years.

The looming threat of the sale prompted property owners to pay $2.56 million in taxes from Sept. 9 until the day before the sale, said Northeast Revenue representative Sean Shamany.

School districts, which make up the largest share of tax bills, will receive $1.5 million of these payments, while $606,814 will go to the county and $419,720 will be forwarded to municipalities, he said.

Five properties prompted bidding competition Thursday, including a 1963 brick, one-story on Belair Drive in Salem Township that is assessed at $149,500 and sold for $41,000.

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