December 19th, 2015
Bossier Parish, LA – The Shreveport Times – Bossier Parish Police Jury has taken a historic step in fighting blight.
The parish recently entered into a partnership with CivicSource, a company that makes online auctions of a city’s adjudicated properties possible. Last Friday, in a first for the parish, 31 of its adjudicated properties became available online to potential buyers..
Cities often take multi-faceted approaches to fighting blight and turning around adjudicated properties. Placing properties online has proven a successful method in cities such as New Orleans — and since buyers pay the total cost, partnership with CivicSource costs the city and taxpayers nothing.
Patrick Culverhouse, public information officer for the parish, said administrator Bill Altimus knew about CivicSource because the company had been attending Police Jury meetings and working on the online auction process for years.
“There are serious advantages to having an outside source handle these issues for us,” Culverhouse said. “What we want to see are those properties back into commerce, and that is something that CivicSource can do for us.”
CivicSource’s chief legal officer Stephen Morel said online auctions open property sales to a wider audience, generate revenue for cities, speed up the sale of adjudicated properties and actually raise the selling price. CivicSource, based in New Orleans, also provides title insurance on sold properties.
“What governments have been trying to do is sell these properties off one at a time, but without title insurance,” Morel said. “The ability to provide title insurance on adjudicated properties has been a foreign concept to governments. No one wanted to take that risk.”
Without the title to a property, a purchaser technically owns the land but runs into roadblocks when trying to take out a mortgage. City governments in the past also have debated on whether to fund the sale of adjudicated properties. But with platforms such as CivicSource, the buyer initiates the sale and the process costs city governments and taxpayers nothing.
The way it works is the winning bidder at auction picks up all the costs associated with the company’s preparation of a property. Morel said the costs associated with the property — including the initial research, notification process, estimated closing costs and cost of title insurance — all are included in the base starting price at auction.
“Taxpayers pay nothing,” Morel said. “There’s no commission on the sale. There’s absolutely no liability to the governing agency.”
Partnerships with Caddo parish and the Bossier Parish Police Jury district are still too new to have comprehensive data for the cities, Morel said. But data the company collected from its other partnerships indicate online auctions work.
Morel said since launching in July, the online auctions have collected more than $16 million through sales of more than 600 properties across Louisiana. Cities have collected an additional $3 million in redemptions from owners of adjudicated properties slated for sale, according to the company.