No takers: Large development properties go unsold in Washtenaw County's online tax foreclosure auction
Thousands of people viewed the online auctions for three Washtenaw County development parcels before bidding closed Wednesday afternoon on the tax foreclosure sales.
But in the end, no one bid on the chances to build new housing on the properties.
"At this point, they're not worth anything," said Saline-based builder and developer Jim Haeussler. "They're worth more as an open field."
â€¢ Wellesley Gardens, where 33 acres in the second phase of the 427-home condo project were auction off for unpaid back taxes. The property in Pittsfield Township was available for a minimum bid of $1.2 million.
â€¢ Uptown Village in Milan, where 31.47 acres went unbuilt in the neo-traditional community developed by Delcor Homes. The minimum bid was $193,327.
â€¢ Liberty Square, where 63 townhouses in the condemned, 151-unit Ypsilanti Township complex were available for the minimum bid of $299,926.
The lack of bids appears to show just how much residential development has slowed.
Haeussler, president of Peters Building Co., said "there's not a market" at this point for development property in Washtenaw County.
Even if a buyer didn't have to finance the land, "no one will loan anyone money to finish (a project)," he said.
Liberty Square is a unique circumstance because the auction was for non-contiguous units, and the county is requiring a cash performance bond to ensure a buyer either demolishes or rehabs the units.
The other two parcels — once part of the county's fast-paced residential growth — show the limited market for land in outlying areas or condos, where many existing units are on the market, Haeussler said.
"Market-wise, they reached the saturation point with other (homes) available at a similar price," he said.
And due to other considerations like the secondary locations, "other products would sell first," Haeussler said.
That makes the next step for the county important as it seeks to recoup the back taxes, said Treasurer Catherine McClary.
The three parcels that didn't sell Wednesday will go back up for auction without minimum bids, she said. In total, the 22 parcels that did not sell in this month's multple online auctions - plus the three development properties - will be listed for starting bids of $350 on Oct. 26.
"We're going to have a chance to sell all of the ones we haven't sold at a sale where we will not try to recoup the taxes," she said. "We're just trying to ... recoup as much money as we can."
That amount, McClary said, will recover the costs of the auctions and fling the deeds after the sale.
"My hope is that when people start bidding... the property will get bid up to something that is closer to the value of what it should sell for," McClary said.
If they don't, it's possible all of the taxing entities that received advance tax payments from the county for the properties will face chargebacks from the treasurer.
That means municipalities and other beneficiaries from property taxes - like Washtenaw Community College and affected libraries - could be forced to issue refunds to the county from their already-strained general funds.