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Buyer beware

Things got really heated at a recent real estate auction of properties that were in tax default in Marin County, Calif.

Bidding escalated at a frantic pace for one parcel with an assessed value of $4,000, spiraling way above the $11,500 county officials were looking to get in order to cover back taxes and penalties.

“We were pretty perplexed,” said Sandra Kacharos, the county’s property tax collection division chief told the Marin Independent Journal. “We visit all these parcels so we knew it was vacant.”

But apparently, the winning bidder, real estate broker Jeff Helm, did not realize that the $150,000 he offered was for a property adjacent to the vacant 3,600-square-foot lot he’d actually been bidding on.  The lot doesn’t even have a water connection and is too small to build on.

“Not very cool,” said Helm of the transaction. He claimed that he was given bad information by a title company who had written down the wrong parcel number for the property he was bidding on.

Now he’s stuck holding the bag, though he hopes he can void the sale. But that seems unlikely, as Marin County’s top tax official told the newspaper that “all sales are final.”

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