Going once, going twice, sold. To the person in the little box on the screen.
Suffolk County will hold its first virtual property auction Dec. 1 with 159 parcels for sale that the county has reclaimed because of nonpayment of taxes. The properties range from vacant lots that must sell for at least $100 to a 55-acre property in Selden with a starting price of $1 million.
The auction will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., replacing its previous format, which required prospective bidders to scout listings across two days at the Dennison Building in Hauppauge.
The county hopes the virtual format will attract more bidders than past sales. Registration is open at suffolk.ny.realforeclose.com until Nov. 23.
"The virtual property auction is our latest effort to streamline resources and create greater efficiencies, while simultaneously increasing access," County Executive Steve Bellone said in a statement.
The added competition for properties will benefit the county, said Natalie Wright, Suffolk’s commissioner of economic development and planning. The virtual format could make it easier to hold more than one auction a year in the future, which would reduce the county’s cost of maintaining the properties, she said.
"Our goal is to, as quickly as possible, put these properties back into productive reuse and ensure property taxes are being collected to support the tax base," Wright said.
Bidders are encouraged to inspect properties before the auction and to take note of zoning or building restrictions attached to any of the parcels, according to the county’s auction brochure. Some properties have restrictions that require owners to occupy the residences, said Sidney Joyner, the county’s director of real estate.
Properties go to auction after a 36-month period without payment of taxes for one-, two- and three- family residences.
Suffolk County has hired realauction.com to run the event. The company charges winning bidders $300 per transaction to generate revenue and doesn’t charge the county for use of its platform, Joyner said. Winners also face additional taxes and surcharges.
The virtual format might lead to more buyers, but Todd Yovino, who owns Island Advantage Realty in Hauppauge, is skeptical opening up the auction online will produce more tax-paying properties. He thinks the county should have only moved a portion of the properties to the virtual auction to test the concept.
"What happens from my experience is people purchasing items they don’t know anything about," said Yovino, who has experience representing sellers of distressed properties. "When you’re keeping it local, like it was forever, you’re getting the local audience that has a better sense of what’s really up for sale."