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Going once, going twice, going 3 times

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Aug 15, 2021

County auditor/treasurer Darren Esser conducts the auction, above.

It is always nice when things go better than expected.

That was the case last Tuesday morning when Faribault County conducted an auction sale on the steps of the county courthouse of tax forfeited properties from around the county.

“This went a lot better than we had hoped,” Faribault County Auditor/Treasurer Darren Esser said after the sale. “We had a really good-sized crowd turn out for the sale.”

And, those folks who showed up also seemed to be there to do some serious bidding.

“The properties went for more than I had thought they would,” Esser said. “I thought we would be lucky to sell everything for $75,000. But we actually had a sales total of $166,600.”

There were 22 properties auctioned off. Two were in Wells, two in Frost, three in Winnebago, one in Foster Township, one in Blue Earth, one in Easton, one in Kiester, two in Minnesota Lake, one in Walters and eight in Elmore.

Some were bare lots, but many had houses or commercial buildings on them.

The highest amount paid was for a home in Frost, with a top bid of $30,000. The lowest was a lot sold for the minimum bid of $100.

“I thought we would get around $10,000 for the house in Frost,” Esser said. “But it is a very large house and it came with quite a few items inside, and the housing market is hot now.”

One property at the auction, a bare lot in Blue Earth, did not get a single bid. Esser said the lot had over $13,000 in assessments against it, which made it difficult to find a bidder.

“That lot now went up for sale at the auditor’s office starting Tuesday morning at 8 a.m.,” Esser explained. “It would be for the minimum amount set by the county, which is $100, plus some fees and the assessments.”

Two other properties that did bring a lot of interest were the two commercial buildings in downtown Wells, known locally as the Big Cat and the Little Cat. They were once the location of the now closed Wildcat Cafe.

The larger building sold for a bid of $17,500, while the smaller one went for $14,000.

Esser explained that the properties for this auction became owned by the county when the property taxes were not paid for several years.

“We get around 10 to 15 of these each year,” Esser says. “The list first goes to the city or township where they are located, and they have first option to buy them. Sometimes they do and often tear them down.”

When the list gets big enough, the county does this forfeited property public auction sale or sells them privately when someone has an interest in purchasing them.

“Our last auction was quite a while ago, in 2018,” Esser says. “But we have quite a few properties now, so it is possible we could have another auction yet this year, with about 10 more properties.”

The auditor’s office tries to do the auctions in non-election years, as it takes quite a bit of work to get everything set up for the sale, and there is not time for that in an election year.

Esser added that he had some personal memories come back, as he stood on the courthouse steps conducting the auction for the first time.

“My dad actually was here in this spot 30 years ago and bought a tax forfeited property in Easton at this same type of auction,” Esser said. “He just sold it recently.”