Local properties offered in ChesCo’s first online auction

WEST CHESTER PA – Properties in Phoenixville, St. Peters, Spring City and Elverson are among more than 60 real estate parcels in Chester County that, on January 20 (2022; Thursday), are scheduled to be auctioned by the Office of the county sheriff for unpaid mortgages, back taxes, or other debts owing. The auctions themselves aren’t new to the sheriff, but the method of selling is.

It is being conducted online for the first time.

Virtual auctions are common elsewhere, acknowledges county sheriff Fredda L. Maddox. Adjacent Montgomery and Berks counties already rely on a nationwide digital services manager, Maryland-based Bid4Assets.com, to handle their online auction transactions. Maddox said Tuesday, Jan. 4, his office is doing the same, with the intent “to use technology to better serve our residents.”

In years past, bargain hunters looking for real estate bargains would scan the classified pages of newspapers for sheriff’s sale ads. They sought out the properties that interested them the most and showed up at a courthouse or other public place to place their bids on the land offered for sale. The highest bidders generally won, unpaid debts were satisfied, and municipal entities profited.

The arrival of COVID-19, however, has heightened sheriffs’ concerns about the virus spreading within the tight confines of live auction spaces. This reduced, and even eliminated for a time, the number of auctions they held. Additionally, some potential bidders were unable to take the time on a weekday to wait for the properties they wanted to put up for auction. This limited the pool of potential buyers.

Companies like Bid4Assets, founded in 1999, and its competitors have solved these problems and more. The frequency of auctions returned to the schedule and no one needed to go to a courthouse. Because bidders had internet access, more bids were submitted and bid prices increased. In some cases, these auctioned properties have seen their costs drop significantly or even disappear.

The Chester County Sheriff’s Office, for example, “is now able to make its sales free of charge,” the company said in a press release.

Anyone can see the Sheriff’s list of properties for sale here. Its on-sale dates are currently scheduled monthly through April. However, not everyone can bid. Qualified bidders must register for a free Bid4Assets account and also pay a $5,000 deposit to participate in the auction, its website reported.

Bid4Assets President Jesse Loomis thanked the county for choosing his company as an online auction partner. “Given the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant,” he added, “we expect many more sheriffs to test this virtual format in 2022.”

Photo by John Schnobrich via Unsplash, used under license

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