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Posted on Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 5:19 p.m.

Up for bids: Washtenaw County tax foreclosure auctions are under way

By Paula Gardner

A total of 64 auction lots went up for sale today, representing the largest tax foreclosure sale in Washtenaw County's history.

The properties listed for sale on include 24 listings for vacant parcels with a combined 141 development lots, including multiple building sites in three different communities.

The listings also include 33 residential listings and seven commercial property auction lots.


An undeveloped lot at Rivergrove Village in Ypsilanti Township.

Washtenaw County

Starting bids represent the outstanding back taxes and fees owed to the county, said Treasurer Catherine McClary.

Sales funds go into a single restricted account to cover all associated expenses with the year's tax foreclosures, she said, with the goal to avoid ending up in the red. Losses at the foreclosure auction eventually affect the municipality that received advance tax payments.

In 2010, when 33 properties headed into the online tax foreclosure auction system, "Things went super-well," McClary said. "... Except for Wellesley (Gardens)."

The county made money on the agricultural and commercial properties, McClary said, and "we broke even on the residentials."

But the largest sale — that of the undeveloped portion of a Pittsfield Township condominium complex — went through multiple auctions, then several bidders at a reduced opening bid before finding a buyer.

The problem with that property, McClary and real estate experts said, was the loss of value of development land.

"We have an oversupply of housing in southeast Michigan," McClary said. "... The recovery has been slower than expected."

As the home building industry slowed, the market for development land evaporated. One sign of just how much: Of the 639 properties in this year's tax foreclosure auction, 632 are "bank walkaways," where the lender gave up possession instead of paying the tax bill.

"It used to be that we always could collect from the banks," McClary said. "Now we can't."

Stemming from that situation — also called "strategic defaults" — several subdivision parcels are available in this month's auction, grouped under the "vacant land" heading on the auction website. More will be listed in September.

"Banks are saying they're not in the development business anymore," McClary said.

Among the development land listings that expire on July 26 are a total of 30 parcels in the Rivergrove condo development in Ypsilanti Township, near Grove and Bridge roads, 48 parcels in The Pointe, also in Ypsilanti Township, and 44 parcels in Milan Crossings.

The split auction listings were done by McClary and her staff, she said, "so we could have smaller dollar amounts for minimum bids."

The hope, she said, is that a builder or developer would anticipate less risk from bidding on the property and eventually making a profit on the land buy.

As of midday Tuesday, five houses received bids, while no land or commercial listing attracted a bid.

The auctions end Monday for commercial property, July 26 for development land and July 27 for residential property.

Another auction is scheduled for Aug. 12, when 24 listings in the city of Ypsilanti are offered in their own 3-day round of bidding.



Tue, Nov 1, 2011 : 6:15 p.m.

I sincerely hope that the County pursues the banks that have "walked away" from these properties, should they be unable to sell them for enough to cover every penny of back taxes, collection costs, auction costs, and property transfer costs. Republicans are always complaining about people not pulling their own weight and imposing costs on hard-working taxpayers; if corporations are people too, should we not demand that the same standard is applied to banks that they apply to homeowners that walk away from homes worth less than what is owed on them?


Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 10:22 p.m.

dcc918 Thank you. Z-man I hate to wish bad luck on people but I really hope you find yourself trying to afford a place to leave on a low income salary.


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 1:12 p.m.

Ok, yesterday there was an article about how much the state is giving to the developer of Georgetown Mall off of Packard millions of dollars. They are using school taxes money which should be used on schools when right in this article "We have an OVERSUPPLY of housing in southeast Michigan," McClary said. "... The recovery has been slower than expected.". Why are we doing such a stupid thing. The WASHTENAW COUNTY BOC AND THE STATE OFFICIALS SHOULD BE ASHAMED. You are throwing good money after bad. It will just be a another giant tax break for the developer when it fails and the property will most likely end up on the Auction page in a few years. Are you people that stupid? 132 PARCELS JUST FROM DEVELOPEMENTS. Get you head out of you tush and stop sucking up to just the rich. Start with a development for low income housing which is in desperate need. Do something good for the people who vote you in. For all those people that say low income housing attracts only bad people. Get off your rich high horse and realize that a lot of hard working people cannot afford $1000 a month for an 1 bedroom apartment in Ann Arbor and almost that much in the surrounding areas. All people deserve good housing not just the rich.


Thu, Jul 21, 2011 : 4 p.m.

Thank you, Crazymad. If there is an oversupply of housing in SE MI, it certainly hasn't affected the overall Ann Arbor market in a way useful to non-rich people. @ Z-man: You are clearly unsympathetic to anyone of a lower economic level, and I think people like you unfortunately make some parts of Ann Arbor nice to look at but somewhat undesirable to live in. I am a PhD student on fellowship (I work extremely hard for my paltry wage, don't worry), and apartment hunting for the past two years has been extremely frustrating because most of the properties in my price range are clearly aimed at 19 year olds who don't mind living in miserable properties controlled by slumlords. As an adult, I don't find these properties to be desirable, nor will I live with a roommate other than my partner. I have the choice of living in one of these tiny, awkwardly divided, still expensive apartments, surrounded by badly behaved undergraduates or finding another town to live in for less money, but making up the difference in gas money and car maintenance. Because my job is in Ann Arbor and I don't have the resources to live elsewhere, simply living "someplace more affordable" isn't really the magical go-to option you think it is. Even nicer properties in Ypsi aren't an option for many in my situation because I often come in to my office at 8 am and don't leave until 10 pm or later when the buses have ceased to run on many lines. I hope you're a more empathetic person in reality than you come across on the internet.


Wed, Jul 20, 2011 : 9:41 p.m.

If someone cannot afford Ann Arbor, then perhaps they should live someplace more affordable.

Paula Gardner

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 11:24 p.m.

Just checked the online list and made a change. I was trying to distinguish between the actual number of parcels and the number of auction batches (or lots) Many had combined parcels ranging from 2 to more than 40, plus some will come up in August and September, which leads to the 639 number. Some of the properties have been taked off the auction list, too, as municipalities exercise their right to buy them.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 11:04 p.m.

Please try to do a better job with the numbers Paula, I have no idea what the facts are. First you say 63 properties. Then 24+34+7 which is 65. Then 632 of 639 are bank walkaways. Nothing here is clear.