“You can push a dog house out in the middle of the block right now and you’ll have a bidding war and close in two days,” he said.
Interest in the city’s delinquent property tax sales already had hit unprecedented levels last year, he said, even before COVID-19 vaccinations and a stable economy. St. Louis Sheriff Vernon Betts’ office, which usually conducts the sales in the Civil Courts building, held them outside last year because of the pandemic. Prices went “sky-high,” Sweet said.
“We had hundreds of people, record numbers of people sign up to bid in the tax sale, more than would have ever fit in the courthouse lobby or the ceremonial courtroom,” Sweet said of the 2020 tax sales.
Gregg Christian, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office who also serves as auctioneer during the tax sales, said no more than 200 people had attended past tax sales; more than 700 showed up last year. The office ran out of bid cards and had to make more.
This year, the city initially sued 200 property owners for unpaid taxes for the first tax sale. Just under 30 of the properties made it to the actual Tuesday auction. Property owners have several months to come forward and pay the back taxes. Other buyers can also try to pay off the taxes and work a deal out privately with the owner before the properties hit the public auction.
“That’s the amazing thing, too, how many properties were redeemed before the tax sale,” said Costello, the LRA director.