Harrisburg institutes new requirements for county property sales

Dauphin County held one of its regular auctions Thursday night to sell properties seized because the owners didn’t pay their property taxes.

So what made this one special? Well, it was the first auction since the City of Harrisburg instituted several changes with how its property is auctioned off. The changes were designed to help combat blight.

Hundreds of properties were being auctioned by the Dauphin County Tax Claim Bureau. Many were in Harrisburg and commanded a wide range of prices. There were those that didn’t sell at all, those that sold for a couple thousand dollars and there was one that sold for $1.7 million. That was an office building on Pine Street in Harrisburg.  The buyer would only say that he was from Metro Bank and did not comment any further.

For city officials, his check said it all.

“There’s a lot of investment happening here tonight and that’s very positive,” said Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse.

But perhaps the biggest story out of this auction was how it handled properties on the lower end. For one thing, the auctioneer identified properties that were condemned and buyers had to sign a release saying they were told that.

“They can no longer say, ‘well I didn’t know what I was buying’ or ‘I didn’t receive notice’ or anything like that,” said Papenfuse.

The goal was to prevent rundown properties from being bought by speculators who were just looking to turn a buck by quickly selling them. The city was also looking to get as much information from the buyers as possible to make sure they can keep tabs on them in the future.

“We have our codes director here for the first time at one of their sales,” he said. “He’s out there speaking to the buyers. He’s getting their contact information.”

Buyers like Cesar Cepeda had no problem with that. He wants to invest in the properties and said he cares about the city.

“There’s a lot of properties that are dilapidated,” Cepeda said. “If more people came to the auction and purchased properties we’ll have less renters and we have more people who will take care of their properties better and you’ll have a better community.”

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