Land up for grabs in Island County

By BRIAN KELLY

Herald Writer

COUPEVILLE — With one hit of the auctioneer’s gavel, it’s gone, gone, gone.

Twenty property owners may lose their land later this week for failing to pay their property taxes. Under a court order, the Island County Treasurer’s Office will auction the properties Friday morning in the commissioners meeting room at the Coupeville county building.

The properties, which range from unimproved lots to parcels with improvements and a water view, have assessed values up to $208,228.

A total of 23 parcels were on the original auction list, but some owners have since paid their bills, which date back to 1996.

Others have already said they won’t pay their overdue tax bills, however. Blame it on bad building schemes: Some parcels aren’t suitable for septic systems.

"Some people found out the land doesn’t perc (percolate), so they can’t build on it," said Katy Wells, an Island County foreclosure deputy. "They bought it with the intention of building on it, but found out they can’t."

In other cases, the owner of the property has passed away, leaving the tax bill to descendants or those in charge of the estate. A smaller number of property owners have financial difficulties.

Property owners must be delinquent in their tax payments for three years before their land can be sold at a tax foreclosure sale. Even so, there are enough late payments to make the auction an annual event.

The auction is held every year the week before Thanksgiving, but usually only 10 or so properties are sold.

The high number this year may shrink in the days before the sale, Wells said, as owners come in to settle their accounts. Property owners have until 4:30 p.m. on Thursday to pay up, or they can come in Friday morning, register for a bid card, and take their chances with the crowd.

And there may be plenty of people looking for a bargain. Previous foreclosure sales have drawn up to 75 people, Wells said. And some have already come by the treasurer’s office to study maps so they can inspect the properties.

"We’ve had really good interest, a lot of people have been coming in," Wells said.

All of the properties have minimum bids, which range from $1,346 to $16,043. The minimum bid includes back taxes from 1996 through the current year, plus interest and the county’s costs for handling the foreclosure process.

Interested in bidding? Buyers must pay in full with cash, a cashier’s check or a money order. Bidders must register at 8:30 a.m.; the auction begins 30 minutes later.

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