Dade tax collector advertising fewer properties this year even with recession
By Risa Polansky
Despite a rough economy, fewer delinquent property tax certificates are being advertised for sale in Miami-Dade this year than last.
In 2008, the county tax collector advertised 89,795 properties before the annual delinquent tax certificate sale.
This year, the office is advertising 85,318 properties.
Values totaled about $524 million last year, compared to about $497 million this year.
The certificate auction is to begin June 1.
Owners have until May 31 to make good on their taxes.
After that, the tax certificates of those remaining delinquent are up for grabs.
Of the 89,795 advertised as delinquent last year, 68,559 certificates went up for auction, and 66,681 sold.
Former local appraiser Tom Dixon said he had expected a jump this year in light of the economy. The drop in certificates for sale surprised him, though he quickly identified a contributing factor.
"The reason is that if there is a tax appeal pending and unresolved, the tax collector does not sell the tax certificate," said Mr. Dixon, who now runs Dixon Commercial Real Estate.
Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Pedro J. Garcia said this month that in the past year, the county has seen 70,000 appeals on about 100,000 properties, up from 40,000 to 45,000 the year before.
County Tax Collector Manager Jerry Gomez confirmed that properties with pending tax appeals and unpaid taxes are "held out of the auction."
Still, it's tough to pin the drop in delinquent certificates on a single factor.
Another potential contributor: because of foreclosure, there's a high number of bank-owned properties in Miami-Dade now — and banks tend to pay property taxes.
In 2007, 26,391 foreclosures were filed, more than doubling to 56,656 in 2008.
Through April of this year, 25,577 have been filed, according to county clerk counts.
Alex Sanchez, president and CEO of the Florida Bankers Association, said it's "unheard of" that a bank not pay property taxes once foreclosure proceedings become final and the bank holds the property's title.
"That's their collateral — they want to protect it," he said.
Mr. Gomez of the tax collector's office acknowledged the same.
"Generally, banks would act to protect their interests," he said.
The county began advertising delinquent real estate taxes April 30.
Since, bidders have been able to view parcels and begin submitting bids at www.BidMiamiDade.com.
Purchase of a tax certificate does not mean the buyer is entitled to the property. Certificate holders can't demand payment from property owners for about two years.
The certificate acts as a lien issued to the lowest bidder who will pay the delinquent tax.
Interest rates run from 0% to a state maximum of 18%.
Even bidding a quarter of 1% interest means a minimum 5% total return on investment, Mr. Gomez said.
He noted that this year he's seeing more individuals register for the auction.
Hedge funds and institutional buyers have been common in recent years, he said.
Now, "I think we might actually see a return to the auction of these smaller investors" looking for higher return than from a bank "on a relatively safer investment," Mr. Gomez said.
Mr. Dixon said he expects fewer buyers in the game this year and predicted "buyers are going to probably be more competitive in terms of wanting higher rates — but nobody knows until the auction opens."