THOMAS COUNTY, GA (WALB) –It's another sign of the struggling economy: homes auctioned off because the owners failed to pay their taxes.
For some, a tax sale is a great opportunity to invest in real estate. For others, it means losing a family home.
Eager bidders gathered at the Thomas County Judicial Center Tuesday morning, hoping for the chance to either invest in or save some Thomas County properties.
"There are some competitive bidders here. So you have to not take it to heart and not get too angry or upset about it. But it's a lot of fun and the way we look at it is sort of a game," says George Haizlip, who traveled all the way from Atlanta for his chance to bid on a property.
But he was met by some serious competition. Namely, this man, who bid on nearly every auction during the two-hour event.
"He's a pretty experienced investor," Haizlip admits. "You just have to know that sometimes you're not going to win them all. But there are a lot of opportunities out there and I would say to investors don't give up. Keep coming back and one day we might get him to go to lunch!"
But not everyone is looking to capitalize on these properties.
"We try to keep it fair so everybody knows what's for sale and conform to Georgia law," explains Lt. Steve Jones of the Thomas County Sheriff's Office. "But it's not something I like to do. We never like to sell property out from someone but sometimes that's what we have to do."
For some, these properties are family homes that may soon be lost.
"We did have one case where it did get a little heated," says Lt. Jones.
Two women stormed off after watching an investor buy their property.
"It can be a touchy situation because people have sentimental value on things they've owned for years and in that particular case she wanted to keep her property in her family," Haizlip explains.
Fortunately, people who lose their property have up to one year to purchase it back. But it may mean paying as much as 20-percent more than the auction price.
The Thomas County Sheriff's office says this round of tax sales began with nearly 200 properties.
By 10 A-M Tuesday morning, that number was down to only 20 because many people paid off their taxes at the last minute.