By this summer, anyone wishing to bid on property at a county tax sale in Grayson County will need to be familiar with a computer. On Tuesday, Grayson County commissioners approved a contract with GovEase Auction LLC to begin hosting county tax auctions online.
An in-person sale is already planned for this spring, but by the time the summer rolls around the process will have moved online, Grayson County tax collector Bruce Stidham.
Part of the reasoning behind this is the recent pandemic and people’s reluctance to be in a room full of other people. Another reason is that it will open up the process to more participants.
People from other cities and even countries can bid on properties with the online auction.
Stidham said the auctions are important for various tax entities because they put property back on the tax rolls as income producing for the entities.
“A lot of work and effort goes into (this) before a property comes up for sale,” Stidham said. “Like informing the owner, trying to find some type of agreement for him to pay his taxes. In the case of a deceased owner, we have to ask our lawyers to go back and find the heirs, any possible heirs du And all this work can take a long time – up to a year and maybe even more.
He said local government has a responsibility to change to be more accommodating to the people it serves. And by law, the court of commissioners can approve the use of online public auctions for tax sales.
Stidham said he was working with County Treasurer Gala Hawkins, County Auditor Suzette Smith, Sgt. Don Bowling and Capt. Harvey Smitherman of the Grayson and Virginia Hughes County Sheriff’s Office to discuss the idea of online auctions. They met over zoom and over the phone with two online auction services, he said. One of them stood out from the group.
Smith said payments for the online auction can be made by credit card and online transfer. She said Grayson County will be GovEase’s first Texas customer, but she thinks it will work to the county’s advantage because GovEase will bring it up to county specifications.
“They will require a letter of credit for bidders,” she explained, saying some of the other businesses they spoke with wanted bidders to deposit money for the auction.
Grayson County Commissioner Jeff Whitmire asked who would own the computer program. The county won’t own it, she said, but it will pay $150 per package to use the program. All costs will be billed to bidders.
“I really appreciate Bruce,” Judge said. He said he was told that online sales would increase sales by up to 30%.
Now there won’t just be local auctions, he said.
Commissioner Phyllis James and Bart Lawrence wanted to know if the auction would be all online or if people would be allowed to participate in person as they always have in the past.
Stidham said the sale scheduled for spring will only allow in-person bids, but after that everything will be done online.
Stidham’s assistant, Virginia Hughes, said she would be responsible for guiding those who are interested in bidding but don’t understand the online part through the process.
Grayson County Judge Bill Magers asked what happens if the winning bidder doesn’t pay? He was told that there would be a certain amount of time in which to pay the bid and if that time passes without payment the property will be offered to the next highest bidder until it is finally paid by one of the bidders.
“We’re probably going to have a window of at least 24 hours,” Smith said of the time people have to pay for offers.
The minimum bid will always include taxes due and any fees for each package.
Magers said he thinks what will happen is that they will get more institutional buyers from across the country to bid on properties here in Grayson County.
Commissioner David Whitlock said it could turn out that they are selling a lot of it to China. Mager’s response was that it really doesn’t matter as long as he puts the property back on the tax rolls at a competitive price.
“I think it’s a step in the 21st century movement and it’s going to move us forward, great work,” Magers said as he closed the case.