Auction of delinquent taxpayers' properties nets Richmond County $61,000

"Bridgett" smiled and didn't want to give her last name. She'd just purchased the former JD Grill at 148 Walker St. and has plans.

"It used to be a restaurant ... and that neighborhood will be a good place for some down-home cooking," she said.

The Augusta woman bought the property for $3,525 -- far less than the property's fair market value, listed by the Richmond County Tax Assessor's office at $21,573.

Bridgett wasn't the only one to score a bargain during an auction Tuesday of properties whose owners are behind on their taxes. Pre-sale publicity has increased interest in recent sales, Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick said, and more than 40 people turned out at an Augusta courtroom to bid on 61 properties whose owners were delinquent on taxes owed from 2008 and earlier.

Ethan Andrews scored a Battle Row home valued at $16,236 for just $2,870, the amount of unpaid taxes owed. He said construction of the multimillion-dollar Kroc Center nearby makes him think the historic area is on the rise.

Under the terms of the sale, he can't take possession of the house for a year and 45 days, but even if the owner pays her tax bill and gets her property back, he'll reclaim his money, plus interest, Andrews said.

The auction led to the sale of 21 of the 61 properties and generated $61,000 in unpaid taxes, Kendrick said.

"We were pleased because these were all properties that we had attempted to sell before," he said.

The tax office had the total fair market value of properties listed for sale Tuesday at $849,594, with $172,478 in unpaid property taxes attached to them.

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