LITTLE VALLEY — Cattaraugus County’s first online property tax auction was a resounding success.

County Treasurer Joseph G. Keller said Friday the two-week auction set a record of $1.4 million.

The online auction was held due to coronavirus concerns at an in-person auction where up to 200 people might gather.

With county involvement in back taxes, interest and fees of $450,000 on the 80 properties, the county is looking to pocket nearly a cool million dollars over and above its costs.

“It was the highest amount of sales ever,” Keller said in an interview. It’s only the second time we broke $1 million.” The average sales over the past several years is probably in the $800,000 range, the treasurer said.

“It was a tough year,” Keller said. “I was kind of disappointed we couldn’t do the live auction. I was a little apprehensive about the online auction, but it may be the wave of the future. People had two weeks to look over any properties before they submitted a bid.”

Auctions International of Buffalo handled the sale, Keller said. Bidders were required to register for the online auction. A 6% premium paid by the buyer goes to Auction International.

“We had over 400 bidders,” Keller said of the auction that went live on Aug. 22 and ended Tuesday. “Of the 80 parcels, all but six have paid. We’ll offer those properties to the second highest bidders.”

Keller said the highest bid was for a 74-acre parcel with a run-down house in the town of Carrollton that went for $201,000.

Also, in Franklinville, a 91-acre vacant parcel went for $135,000, and a 2.7-acre parcel in Ellicottville that went for $31,600.

The County Legislature is expected to approve the property sales later this month, Keller said.

Successful bidders had the option of paying Auctions International, or paying the county on Wednesday and Thursday. About 80% of the bidders chose to pay the county.

“There were some big rolls of 20s,” the treasurer commented. “We were busy. It went very smooth.”

Keller said he didn’t know what to expect from the online auction. “At the in-person auction, you know you’ve got a deposit before they (bidders) leave. I’m very happy with the outcome, though. I would do it again.”

Keller won’t have to worry about that since his term ends Dec. 31, and he didn’t seek re-election.

He said he’d recommend the online auction to his successor — his son, Deputy Treasurer Matthew Keller.

The county usually auctions tax-deliquent property in May, but delayed it due to COVID-19, Keller said.

“Most of the bidding came in the last two days,” Keller noted. People didn’t want to tip their hand and drive the bids up, he speculated.

“It was an overall success,” Keller said of the online property auction.

At the request of the Cattaraugus County Land Bank, 10 properties were held out of the auction, half of which were in Olean, Keller said.

The Land Bank plans to demolish seven of the most blighted homes and rehabilitate three of them.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

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