A newbie walks into a county auction...

6 Replies

A few months ago I decided to go to an auction at our local county courthouse. I looked up the listings on our county's Trustee sales list. I looked up a large amount of the properties on Trulia for crime, Zillow for some ballpark pricing, and Craigslist for what rentals are selling for in the area. Even though I knew I wasn't going to bid anything I wanted to simulate that I was. I had all the information in hand and I was ready to go. I thought....

Right out of the gate they rattle off the address number along with multiple reference numbers. As I hastily look up the address I don't see it. But I do see the reference number, not once but 3 times relating all to a different address and none of them that were actually called. Panic ensues and I'm not even bidding on anything. At the end of the day, I walked away defeated but with a million more questions then what I started with. 

It made me uncomfortable that I didn't know much but I was determined to find out what was going on. So I had a few contacts at the county and I received a few leads when I went to the auction. The information I gathered from the county had a big impact on how I moved through the process. The list I obtained from the counties trustee sales list isn't up to date, has multiple duplicate listings, some are active most of them are not, and is a central location for a large amount of confusion. Got it. Not the best place for accurate information. Next was looking up a few vendors that were at the auction to see what they had to offer. 

First up was RexReports. These big orange/yellow books that people were carrying around that had a ton of information, address, trustee, possible auction starting bid, equity and a ton more information. 

Next was auction.com. They did the majority of the bidding and handed out their particular listings. Most of the real data you needed to pay for.

The third was MVBA a law firm that nicely listed all the back tax related auctions. They also seemed to handle the bidder's registration. They are not there every month only quarterly when the tax lien auctions are.

Last was Roddy's foreclosure listing service. They compete with Rex Reports and provide similar services. 

After my research, I decided to get a rex report for this month and start my work that way. Even though they note that you should do your due diligence on the information they did provide a great deal of information. With the report, the auction process went pretty smooth a representative held up an ID that linked to the auction listing. Alternatively, you could get these properties and related information from the auctioning contractors. So reflecting on this experience I would definitely try and get a listing service in play or try to communicate with these auctioning contractors far ahead of time to get what's actually going up for auction.

Even with all of that I still had a few questions on auctions and it's process.
1.) Out of 63 auctions listed all but 8 were canceled. According to the auctioneer, it could have been due to bankruptcy or paying back the loan, or something else.
Q- Could that something else be an investor getting a list and contacting the owner directly to work something out? Or is it too late for that since it has been brought to auction


2.) A condo was sold for $100 dollars today I was floored. The man who conducted the auction seems somewhat new to the process.
Q- If for some reason that wasn't an error on the auctioneer's side what could happen? 

3.) I haven't bought an auction but what would the total cost be on that day?
Q- On the day of the auction what would I have to pay? the auction price +auction fees? Back taxes? HOA dues?

I hope this gives some new folks like myself some insight. I really appreciate any information you can offer.

Thank you,
Scott Nidell

Hi Scott,

Love your title on this post.

In my county the tax auctions are held in a separate location from the "sheriff's sale" auctions. For tax sale properties, it is certainly possible that someone purchased the property and paid the taxes. The vast majority of the list gets paid by the owners before the auction.

#2. If it wasn't an error, then someone has a very cheap condo.

#3. Depends on the vendor, is what I can tell. You will be responsible for back taxes, etc. 

I've been at a few auctions, and I can feel the adrenaline rise in the crowd as it happens. Pretty entertaining, but not comfortable!

Here anyway, the lender will advertise their “maximum bid”, the amount they will bid up to.  So, there is no sense for a third party to bid if they won’t bid up beyond that amount.....therefore, bidding opens at $100, no one else bids, the bank’s “buys it back” for $100.  It used to be entertaining back when we had live auctions when newbies would show up thinking they could buy all these properties for $200, since they were seeing “sale prices” for $100.

The condo auction could also have been an hoa auction.....the underlying mtg remains on the property so what would You bid on a $80k co do if you inherited a $100k mtg?

@Wayne Brooks I appreciate the insight.

When I looked at the report I was given it did have a 189k lien and the doc number was a Deed so I am guessing that is the mortgage on the condo. Still, the condo is worth almost 300k so I guess that isn't too bad. Doesn't mean there isn't more on it somewhere.

There are a lot of full time professionals in this field in Travis and Williamson county that analyze every property on the foreclosure list.  I'm not saying that sometimes a deal doesn't slip through the cracks but it would be very rare

My guess is that deal was the HOA foreclosing due to unpaid fees and there were liens that would survive the HOA foreclosure