Big change coming to Harris County property auctions

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Big change coming to Harris County property auctions
It's a change that could help thousands of people who could never make it to the auction

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Going once, going twice, Gone! One of the longest-running auctions in Harris County is about to see a major change. It's one that could help thousands of people who could never make it to the auction.

The first Tuesday of every month brings hundreds of people to the court house steps to buy foreclosed homes on the auction block, but those crowds could become a thing of the past.

"We on average buy 10 to 15 properties every month," said Cedric McGrew.

McGrew buys properties for investors.

The homes are in foreclosure, have tax liens, or both. For at least 176 years, Harris County has been selling those properties on the court house steps.

"It's an archaic system, it's old. We have 8 constable precincts in Harris County and each one of them is conducting their own individual sales right here behind us," said Mike Sullivan Harris County Tax Assessor Collector.

But the time-honored tradition of selling property like this is about to change.

The state is now allowing counties to set up online versions of the public square auctions, and Harris County is beginning the process of taking this to the virtual world.

Doing so will open the auction to more than just the people who can come down to the court house once a month.

"If you are coming down with maybe $5,000 to invest in a lot and you don't know the process and you don't know which constable has the property for sale at what time and you are under an deadline, one two, three and it's sold, then you are going to put a lot of people out," said Sullivan.

Opening the auction to more bidders could mean more people bidding higher amounts to get properties on the auction block.

Those buying properties say the traditional way has its benefits.

"I feel like you would not get the same excitement that you do here, the same intensity, having to actually see everyone else's reactions and actually bidding in person," said property buyer Julie Cisneros.

Harris County still has a long way to go before it's online auction is up and running -- maybe another full year -- but eventually the first Tuesday crowd could be a thing of the past.