Local Properties Offered in ChesCo’s First Online Auction

WEST CHESTER PA – Properties in Phoenixville, St. Peters, Spring City, and Elverson are among more than 60 real estate parcels in Chester County that, on Jan 20 (2022; Thursday), are scheduled to be auctioned off by the county Sheriff’s Office for unpaid mortgages, back taxes, or other debts owed. Auctions themselves are nothing new for the sheriff, but the sales method is.

It’s being conducted online for the first time.

Virtual auctions are common elsewhere, county Sheriff Fredda L. Maddox acknowledges. Adjacent Montgomery and Berks counties already rely on a nationwide digital services manager, Maryland-based Bid4Assets.com, to handle their online auction transactions. Maddox on Tuesday (Jan. 4) said her office is doing the same, intending to “use technology to better serve our residents.”

In years past, bargain hunters looking for good deals in real estate scanned newspaper classified pages for sheriff’s sales advertisements. They would research properties that interested them most, and show up at a courthouse or other public location to place their bids on lands offered for sale. Highest bidders generally won, outstanding debts were satisfied, and municipal entities benefited.

The arrival of COVID-19, however, heightened concerns among sheriffs about spreading the virus in the close confines of live auction spaces. That reduced, and for a time even eliminated, the number of auctions they held. Also, some potential bidders were unable to take time on a weekday to wait for properties they wanted to arise for bidding. That limited the pool of would-be buyers.

Firms like Bid4Assets, founded in 1999, and its competitors addressed those problems and more. Auction frequency returned to the calendar, and no one needed to visit a courthouse. Because bidders had Internet access more bids were submitted, and bid prices rose. In some cases those auctioning properties saw their costs drop significantly, or even disappear.

Chester County’s Sheriff Office, for example, “is now able to conduct their sales at no cost,” the company said in a media release.

Anyone can see the sheriff’s list of properties for sale here. Its sale dates are currently scheduled monthly through April. Not just anyone can bid, though. Qualified bidders must register for a free Bid4Assets account, and also fund a $5,000 deposit to participate in auctions, its website reported.

Bid4Assets’ President Jesse Loomis thanked the county for selecting his company as its online auction partner. “Given the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant,” he added, “we expect many more sheriffs to test out this virtual format in 2022.”

Photo by John Schnobrich via Unsplash, used under license