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Tax Auction is Crazy Now, Was a Bigger Shitshow Pre-Online Era

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Today is the first day of bidding in the first round of the 2013 Wayne County Tax Auction, an online sale of properties in foreclosure for failure to pay 3 years worth of property taxes. Things won't get too interesting until the bidding rounds start to close on September 23, so check back here later in the month to see what properties were grabbed at what prices. In the meantime, let's take a trip down memory lane to 2009, a year in which Jerry Paffendorf desired to by a property in the tax auction, and had to do his bidding in person, as an online method was not available at the time (the tax auction first went online in 2010).

The in-person auction used to require those wishing to bid on properties to show up and physically raise a paddle to bid. Which is fine for an hour or two of drunk bidding for art at a charity auction, but the 2009 foreclosure auction was pretty much the opposite of one of those. A few of the horrors:

1. The list of available properties was essentially a phone book and bidding went on for four days from October 19-22.

2. Would-be bidders had to sit around waiting for their properties to be called, with endless amount of "no bid" properties taking up time as they were read off the list, one by one.
3. The auction rules stated no pagers, cell phones or recording devices. When one woman's cell phone went off, she got kicked out. She began to cry and was unable to bid on the property she desired. We may have just shed a tear thinking about it.

4. The auction room, held in one of the county offices at 400 Monroe, got so full that people were turned away, meaning they were unable to bid. This is documented on Tumblr.
5. This Reuters article from 2009 has more on the nightmare of trying to sell 9,000 properties in 4 days with no internet. Spoiler alert: more crying.

In a nutshell, the current online auction may not be perfect, but at least you don't have to take four days off from work to sit in an office downtown. And you can do your crying privately at home, the way kind-eyed Raymond J. Wojtowicz prefers it.

· Detroit house auction flops for urban wasteland [Reuters]
· No Room at The Manger [7 Billion Friends Tumblr]
· Auction Registration Has Begun: What To Know About Round 1 [Curbed Detroit]