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Grayson County heading online for property tax sales

By Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat
Grayson County commissioners approved moving online for property tax sales.

By this summer, anyone wanting to bid on a piece of property at a county tax sale in Grayson County will have to get friendly with a computer. Tuesday, Grayson County commissioners approved a contract with GovEase Auction LLC to start conducting the county's tax auctions online.

There is an in-person sale already set for this spring but by the time the summer on rolls around the process will have moved online, Grayson County Tax Assessor Collector Bruce Stidham.

Part of the reasoning behind this is the recent pandemic and people's reluctance to be in a room full of other people. Another reason, is that it will open the process up for more participants. 

People from other cities and even countries can bid on the properties with the online auction.

Stidham said the auctions are important to the various taxing entities because it gets the property back on the tax rolls as income producing for the entities. 

"A lot of work and effort goes into (this) before a property is listed for sale," Stidham said. "Like notifying the property owner, trying to work out some type of agreement for them to pay their taxes. In the case of a deceased property owner, we have to have our attorneys go back and look for the heirs, any possible heir to the property. And all of this work can take a long time — as long as a year and possibly even longer.

He said local government has responsibility to change to be more accommodating to the people it serves. And by law, the commissioners court can approve the use of online public auctions for tax sales. 

Stidham said he worked with County Treasurer Gala Hawkins, County Auditor Suzette Smith, Sgt. Don Bowling and Capt. Harvey Smitherman of the Grayson County Sheriff's Office and Virginia Hughes to discuss the idea of the online auctions. They met by zoom and by phone with two online auction services, he said. One of them stood out for the group.

Smith said payments for the online auction can be taken via credit card, and online wire. She said Grayson County will be GovEase's first Texas clients but she thinks that is going to work to the county's advantage because GovEase is going to teak it to the county's specifications. 

"They will require a letter of credit for bidders," she explained saying that some of the other companies they talked to wanted bidders to pre deposit money for the auction. 

Grayson County Commissioner Jeff Whitmire asked who will own the computer program. The county won't own it, she said, but it will pay $150 per parcel to use the program. All of the fees will be charged to the bidders.

"I really appreciate Bruce," the judge said. He said he had been told that the online sales will boost sales by up to 30 percent.

Now there won't just won't be the local boys bidding he said.

Commissioner Phyllis James and Bart Lawrence wanted to know if the bidding would all be online or if people would be allowed to participate in person the way they always have done in the past.

Stidham said the sale set for the spring will allow only in person bids but after that, it will be all online.

Stidham's assistant Virginia Hughes said she will be responsible for walking those who are interested in bidding, but don't understand the online part of it through the process. 

Grayson County Judge Bill Magers asked what happens if the winning bidder does not pay? He was told there will be some length of time worked out in which one must pay for the bid and if that time passes without payment then the property will be offered to the next highest bidder until it is finally paid for by one of the bidders. 

"We're probably going to have a 24-hour window at least," Smith said of the time for people to pay for the bids.

The minimum bid will still include the taxes owed and any fees for each parcel. 

Magers said he thinks what will happen is that they will get more institutional buyers from across the country to bid on the properties here in Grayson County.

Commissioner David Whitlock said it might turn out that they sell a lot of it to China. Mager's response was it really doesn't matter as long as it gets the property back on the tax rolls at a competitive price.

"i think it's a step into the 21st century move and its gonna move us forward so great job," Magers said in closing the matter.