CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
BURNET — Property buyers will soon have the option of participating in an online bidding war for tax-delinquent properties now that Burnet County officials approved policies that would move the process from the courthouse steps to a bidder’s desktop.
The Burnet Central Appraisal District received permission from Burnet County commissioners Feb. 14 to launch the online process after adhering to a 90-day waiting period.
State lawmakers authorized counties to adopt online auctions for tax-delinquent property sales.
“In the current situation, you have everyone (at the courthouse) who has an interest on bidding,” Chief Appraiser Stan Hemphill said. “Now, instead of traveling to the courthouse steps, they simply get online.”
Sales of properties deemed delinquent across Burnet County occur on the first Tuesday of a chosen month.
“If someone doesn’t pay their property taxes, eventually, some legal action takes place. Once a judgement is issued by the district court, the property is subject to being sold at the courthouse steps,” Hemphill said. “We may have three (auctions) during the course of a year. We typically might have 30 to 50 properties.”
Currently, bidders can view properties in advance of the sale by either linking to the appraisal district’s website or viewing records in person at the district office, 223 S. Pierce St.
To purchase tax delinquent properties, minimum bids must coincide with the combined tax liability, filing fees and court costs, or the appraised value of the property, whichever is the lesser amount.
The online option would not only provide a more convenient venue for bidding but also expand participation.
“It does open it up to more people who may not want to travel. Maybe it’s a hot, rainy, or cold day. Maybe they’re sick and wanted to bid,” Hemphill said. “It’s more options for people to have easier access to the bidding.”
However, officials have acknowledged potential challenges that could prompt additional accommodations for participants.
“There’s got to be a little bit of an adjustment or learning curve,” he said. “If someone’s internet connection is down, maybe that could be an issue.
“Does someone want a property and they don’t have a computer?” he added. “Certainly, if there was a situation like that, we could provide someone an option (from a computer) in our office.”
The district will contract with attorneys-at-law McCreary, Veselka, Bragg and Allen to provide the platform for the online auctions.
Sales are stipulated to occur sometime between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesdays on those months the appraiser chooses.
If appraisal district officials opt to do so, the earliest the first online auction could occur is June 6.
Other features of the new process are a system of notifications and alerts about bids much like other auction platforms.
The upcoming sale March 7 will continue as an in-person auction at the Burnet County Courthouse pending the waiting period deadline.
“If there are concerns that it is not working, it did not eliminate the old way we do it,” Hemphill said. “This is newer technology, and we hope it works out well for everyone.”
For more information, go to burnet-cad.org or contact the appraisal district at (512) 756-8291.