Franklin County Government Center

Franklin County’s annual tax sale is expected to have fewer properties available than in 2020.

As of Thursday morning, the county had 504 properties available for the Aug. 23 sale, down from 660 available soon after the list of properties was released last year. The number will come down after some property owners pay their delinquent taxes.

“People can pay right up to the minute I call it,” county Collector Doug Trentmann said. “But it’s foolish to push it that far.”

Trentmann expects the number of available properties to decrease before the tax sale, which starts at 10 a.m. in the commission chamber, and hopes to see that happen.

“We do everything we can to get them paid,” he said. “We notify the bank. We notify the lien holder. Our goal is not to sell the property; it’s to get the bills paid. I’m not the tax seller. I’m the tax collector.”

Each of these properties has been delinquent at least three years but less than six years, after which they were placed on the county’s conveyed property list, Trentmann said. That means they started going delinquent in 2018, well before the coronavirus pandemic.

“In a weird way, the pandemic has affected it because these people are three years behind,” he said. “These people were in a bad spot before the pandemic, but it probably made it worse.”

The properties each have a minimum bid of the amount of taxes owed on them, plus a $150 fee. The available properties range from one too small to be measured in acreage with a starting bid of $162, with most of that for fees, up to one in Berger with an $8,000 starting bid. That property has a building on it. 

Trentmann said his office is dealing with a larger number of people than normal who are unaware of how complicated the tax sale can be to purchase land from, having received four or five calls in the last week alone. Many people have been misled by infomercials or YouTube videos that make them think it will be like buying from a foreclosure auction.

“This is a substantial legal process people are undertaking,” Trentmann said. “It’s not simply walk in, raise your bidding paddle and walk out with land. It’s a yearlong legal process.”

Although getting the land takes a while, buyers must purchase the land the day of the sale using cash or a cashier’s check, Trentmann said. “There are statutes that allow for immediate warrants to be issued if you do not make payment,” he said.

Online tax payments, including on the county’s smartphone app, will be shut down the week before the tax sale to avoid confusion in case someone pays their bill before the auction starts but a delay in receiving it prevents the payment from going through before the land is sold.

The 79 properties sold at the 2020 tax sale was the most in recent memory, and 2016 had the most money brought in from the sale, Trentmann said.