County adopts rules for selling tax-forfeited property

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When Bill and Ann Hanson offered to buy two parcels of tax-forfeited property in Appleton early in September, their request was tabled. At the time, Swift County was working on a new policy governing the sales of tax-forfeited properties.

The Hansons were offering $200 for the vacant lots, but planned to build a home on the property “with a value greater than $50,000 within the next three to five years.” They already own an adjacent lot. In the offer, they also pointed out that they would have to clean up the lots, on which debris had been left.

Both lots have been valued at $1,000 by the county. One of the lots has $2,700 in special assessments against it, mainly comprised of City of Appleton utility charges.

In April, Vincent Hughes had offered $250 each for the lots, but his offer was denied.

At its meeting Oct. 6, the county board again took up the Hanson request after adopting a plan governing the sale of tax-forfeited properties.

Once a year, Swift County offers tax-forfeited property for sale at an auction. All the properties have an appraised price listed and show any special assessments that have been levied against them by local municipalities.

That sale is traditionally in the fall. However, last year, Swift County Auditor Kim Saterbak conducted it in the spring to stay away from the elections that were coming in November. “I found that wasn’t a really good decision,” she said. “There is a lot of stuff going on in the spring. That is why we are going back to the fall.”

Once a property has been through a public auction, they are available the next day over the counter at the courthouse if someone wants to come in and pay for them, she said. However, they have to offer at minimum the price set by the county.

Board Chairman Pete Peterson, District 3-rural south Benson, asked if this policy meant that if someone offered $200 for a property valued at $1,000, that the county wouldn’t even consider the offer. “They have to pay the appraised amount?” he asked.

Saterbak replied that they have to pay $1,000 or more.

To be fair to all potential buyers, if the county is willing to accept an offer less than its appraised price, it has to publicly let the public know by advertising it at the lower price for two weeks in the county’s legal newspaper.

After that publication, the property is eligible to be listed for sale at the new price, she said.

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