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Island properties risking auction
The tax deed for the Sea Palms golf course and more than 100 other properties in the St. Simons Island development will be auctioned on the Glynn County Courthouse steps Tuesday, unless the property owners pay their bills first.

"It is the responsibility of all taxpayers to pay their taxes," Glynn County Tax Commissioner Florence Dees said. If they don't, she said they could lose the tax deeds to their property.

Dees said at least three years of back taxes are owed on the 150 properties to be auctioned in Sea Palms -- including the resort and some private homes. Most of the overdue bills are between $5,000 and $8,000, but total more than $1 million.

Sherrye Gibbs, broker with Sea Palms Realty who is serving as spokesperson for the resort, said Sea Palms does not intend to lose the tax deeds to any of its properties and is continuing to operate.

Tuesday's auction will be one of the larger that Dees has administered, but not the first. Tax deeds in the dormant Liberty Harbor development in Brunswick were previously sold at auction.

"Its not a part of my job I particularly like to do," she said.

A successful bidder at a tax auction does not own the property, but only holds the tax deed to it, Dees said.

Bidding starts at the amount of taxes owed and only goes up. A successful bidder pays the amount bid and holds the tax deed for up to one year.

Within that year, the property owner must pay the holder the amount bid, plus 20 percent of that amount to regain the tax deed to the property.

If the property owner fails to pay the holder of the tax deed, the holder can foreclose on the property and assume full legal ownership of it, subject to other liens on it.

Buying tax deeds has become a lucrative business for some investors, Dees said. Similar auctions are held the first Tuesday of the month throughout the state.

"There are companies all over Georgia that make money doing this," she said. "On the first Tuesday of every month, some county somewhere in Georgia is having one of these auctions."

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