Before anxiety sets in surrounding the upcoming sale of properties on which back taxes are owed, Beaufort Country Treasurer Maria Walls wants consumers to know there is nothing mysterious about the process.
"For property owners, this process is not and should not be a mystery," Walls said. "They have a right to know what they can expect."
The delinquent tax auction will begin at 10 a.m. Oct. 2 at the Charles "Lind" Brown Gymnasium, 1001 Hamar St. in Beaufort.
Bidder registration began Sept. 5 and will continue until noon Sept. 29.
Walls also wants property owners to understand "that the auctioning of their property is not the end, and that their mailing address must be kept up to date," she said.
Current addresses are necessary to notify property owners about sold properties, including any overages due to the owner following a sale, and steps toward redeeming sold property.
Walls explained that an overage occurs when the amount paid by a successful bidder for a delinquent property is higher than the back taxes owed. If the original owner does not redeem the property, he or she is entitled to the overage.
"In the past, we have had delinquent property owners be unaware that they have overage money owed to them," Walls said. Often, it is because the owner moved and did not update a mailing address with the office.
Walls cautioned that third-party "money finding" companies sometimes prey on these property owners, offering to get their money for them - for a percentage. She said the treasurer's office will do the same thing free of charge.
She said if anyone is contacted by such a company, the owner should at least call the treasurer's office for more information before signing any agreements.
"It is very important to me that a delinquent taxpayer knows that if their property is sold at auction, they are entitled to every penny beyond the delinquent taxes due," Walls said.
This year, the county will be auctioning real property such as land, dwellings and mobile homes. Walls encouraged bidders to research the properties before the sale, and never to bid on properties with which they are not familiar.
Walls said it is too early to estimate how many properties will be included in the sale. Response to the advertised listings (included inside this issue of The Bluffton Sun) from delinquent owners often surges in the last week before the auction date.
She said 649 properties were auctioned in 2016, and she is hopeful that this year's number will be lower.
Individuals wishing to bid on properties being auctioned at the Beaufort County tax sale must register in advance of the auction. Registration will not be permitted the day of the sale.
Bidders may register in advance online or at any three of the Treasurer's office locations by noon Sept. 29.
The registration fee is $30 and includes a list of all properties to be sold, distributed the morning of the auction. On the day of the sale, bidder sign-in will begin at 8 a.m. and end at 9:30 a.m. All bidders must be signed in no later than 9:30 a.m.
Walls encourages property owners and bidders to peruse the department's website, www.BeaufortCounty Treasurer.com, for help in answering questions, and for a complete list of delinquent properties.
If questions and concerns remain, anyone may call the office at 843-255-2586.