Final tallies show more than $26.5 million was bid for properties Monday at the Beaufort County tax sale, which will settle about $3 million worth of delinquent taxes.
A total of 1,103 properties were on the auction block, the lowest figure since 2008. Last year, 1,572 properties were put up for sale.
Considering the economic hardship facing some in the Lowcountry, "I think it's just remarkable that we only took 1,103 properties to tax sale," Treasurer Doug Henderson said.
Henderson attributes the drop primarily to a late-fee amnesty program. Between Aug. 22 and Sept. 2, owners were allowed to pay delinquent taxes without the usual Treasurer's Office late fees of $75 or $125. More than 2,500 people took advantage of the one-time offer.
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Monday's auction was Henderson's first as treasurer. He took office in July after defeating incumbent Joy Logan last November.
At previous auctions, former deputy treasurer Herschel Evans manned the microphone and took bids.
This year, Henderson hired a professional auctioneer for about $7.50 per property sold, for a total of about $7,000, he said.
Henderson said he will revisit that decision before the 2012 auction.
"I don't know if my deputy would like to try it next year himself after seeing one," he said.
The owner of a property sold at the auction has one year to reclaim it by paying the delinquent taxes and interest on the sales price.
If a property is reclaimed, the buyer gets his money back plus the interest.
If a property is not reclaimed, the former owner receives whatever money remains from the sale after taxes and fees are deducted.
The 171 properties that did not receive bids will go to the Forfeited Land Commission, which will continue trying to sell them.
Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.