Christian County is set to host one of the smallest delinquent tax sales it has had in recent memory, and the memories go back a fair way for Collector Ted Nichols, who has been in office since 1994.
Tax sales happen every year on the fourth Monday in August. This year, that's Aug. 23. Anyone wishing to buy liens on delinquent property is asked to arrive before 10 a.m., so that they may fill out the proper documentation to bid on property and have it notarized. Bidders must be residents of Missouri and show proper identification.
"If they're not a Missouri resident, there is a way that they can appoint an agent, and they have to be a Missouri resident," Nichols said. "Anyone who is a bidder cannot have any delinquent taxes."
The auction occurs in the courtroom on the second floor of the Christian County Historic Courthouse.
Nichols advises anyone thinking about buying delinquent tax property to find and read Chapter 140 of the Missouri Revised Statutes and get familiar with the property tax laws for buying liens.
"A lot of people think that they're buying a piece of property. They're not buying a piece of property, they're only buying the tax liens on that property," Nichols said. "What we are selling are properties that have three years back taxes."
Nichols said he and his staff members can't give potential bidders legal advice or interpret laws for them, which is why he recommends anyone do some homework on the laws surrounding tax sales before they show up to bid.
"We have some properties where there isn't much there. It's just a little piece of ground," Nichols said.
Some of the properties have been offered more than three times, and can be sold off without a redemption period. Nichols said there are at least three properties in that category that will be up for sale on Aug. 23. Most of these properties, Nichols said, are not very desirable.
"There are probably reasons that no one is wanting to buy them," Nichols said.
The properties listed for tax sale have been listed in the legal advertising section of the Christian County Headliner News on July 21, July 28, and Aug. 4.
In 2020, the Christian County Collector's Office starting working with the Christian County Assessor's Office to post signs on properties with delinquent properties, giving notice to the general public that the property could be subject to a tax sale. One result of the signage over the last two years is a reduction in the number of properties with delinquent taxes.
"We're down to 19 properties to offer for sale," Nichols said.
By the time the sale hits on Aug. 23, that number could be as small as 10. That's down from about 35 tax sale properties in 2020.
"That will be the smallest sale I've had in numerous years," Nichols said. "When the stimulus checks came in, there were a lot of folks who said they were coming in and paying their taxes. 'We've got extra money, so we're coming and paying those.' They got caught up, so they used their money wisely and caught up on their taxes."
The ideal number size of a tax sale, Nichols and his staff said, is zero.
"I don't like selling any of the properties. I don't want anyone to lose their home," Nichols said. "We work very hard to get ahold of people, try to find people--that's one reason we post the properties."
Sometimes, delinquent taxes are a matter of the owner making a mistake, especially in cases where an owner dies and their descendants who live out of the area or out of state inherit the property.
"A lot of the time, it's just an oversight," Nichols said.
The bids on delinquent property start with a base cost of the taxes owed on a property, plus the cost of posting it and advertising the delinquent tax sale. Nichols serves as the auctioneer, usually raising the price of the lien in $100 increments.
"It's nothing fancy," Nichols said. "I'm not an entertainer. We do get some laughs every once in a while."
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