Oberholtzer: A Non-Asshole Guide to Wayne County's Property Auction





The Wayne County tax foreclosure auction, with an unprecedented 25,000 properties for sale, is an incredible opportunity for a cheap property.

The social norms of Black Friday shopping combined with the detachment of the Internet can lead to some careless purchasing decisions.  The properties are sold "as is" and "where is." In other words, caveat emptor, buyer beware. Once you buy the property, you can't go after the county because you're dissatisfied.

So take a minute to consider these easy suggestions for how not to be an asshole, in this year’s auction.

The second phase of the auction begins Tuesday and will run through Oct. 22.

To find out details about participating, click here.

Make it a Vacant

Think of it this way: if you want to have a child you either make your own or adopt, you don’t take someone else’s. The same rule applies for auctioned properties. So if you’re buying a house in the auction, make it a vacant one.  It’s perfectly legal to buy an occupied house, but that doesn’t make it right or easy. It can come with headaches.

What better way to ingratiate yourselves to your new neighbors than by converting an eyesore into a home? For newcomers, buying a vacant property will go a long way toward ensuring your non-asshole status and might save you a few thousand headaches along the way (ever done a DIY eviction before?).

There are plenty of vacant properties in Detroit that could use your love and fixing one up is often still cheaper than buying a renovated house at market value. Welcome to the neighborhood.

Do Your Homework

If you plan to buy, take a trip to the site itself. Get out of your car, talk to the neighbors, and certainly knock on the door to ensure that a home is vacant.

If you are planning to bid on an occupied property, this conversation is invaluable. Find out the circumstances of the residents, make a plan for transition, consider if it’s something you really want to take on. If the resident has no intentions of buying and no desire to stay, you might find a win-win situation. If on the other hand, you're going to have to get a lawyer to evict them, or they are going to burn it down or let the water run inside for days before they let you step foot in it, maybe keep shopping…

Then, just like when you get home from a half-decent date, poke around online awhile to see what you can find out. The go-to source is Detroit’s own Loveland Technologies, search properties to find property status details including ownership, tax rates, fire damage and conversation topics with a personal insight.

There is nothing quite so unsympathetic as a person who bought an auction property only to find that they actually bought the empty plot of land next door, or that it’s occupied despite what the internet said, or that the building has been gone for 6 months (search “no house” in Loveland’s conversation section for some prime examples).

It’s a fact that the property conditions can change with alarming rapidity in Detroit as occupied homes become vacant, as vacant properties are scrapped, and as vacant properties are leveled to the earth. But if you are ignorant, let it not be for lack of trying.

Be a Gift

Whether it’s to increase a portfolio or create a home, or make an investment, everyone who participates in the auction is doing so to gain some benefit from it. That’s a given. However, what’s good for you can also be good for others.

There is room in Detroit for more than double the current population, and there’s a place for you here if you are willing to honor what came before the day you got a deed in your name. Buying a property is like marrying into an extended family– get to know the in-laws and be nice because they can make things a lot harder or a lot easier for you. Pick up trash, mow your yard and others, and just introduce yourself. When you become a part of the land that bears your name, we will all be better for it.







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