Kent County Sheriff unveils new auction mapping system

DOVER — Evaluating foreclosures and tax sales in Kent County just got easier.

Last week, the Kent County Sheriff’s office launched a new sales mapping system they believe will help make the research process prospective bidders go through less of a hassle and ultimately increase the number of total sales.

“This new system will automatically map out all the upcoming foreclosure and monition sales — our two biggest kinds of sales,” said Sheriff Jason Mollohan. “We’re trying to give the best service to the public with the technology that’s available to us.”

The impetus for the upgrade, Sheriff Mollohan says, was that potential bidders interested in foreclosures or tax sales often had to cross reference several different sites and resources in order to make certain judgments about a given property.

“Originally, all you would see on our site was the sales list information and you’d have to get the parcel number or address then go into GIS (geographic information system) mapping to get any of the other information you’d be looking for,” he said. “What this does is provide an aerial view of the county through a GIS map and you can search that way. Parcels that are on the sales list are easily identifiable and all the information you may need is right there — it’s more of a one stop shop now.”

Sheriff Mollohan expects the mapping tool to be especially useful to out-of-town buyers who might be less familiar with the area.

“What we’re finding is that there are some developers buying in Kent County that aren’t actually from here,” he said. “There are a fair amount of investors basically just flipping the foreclosures. This will help them look specifically in certain geographical areas and get the information they need ahead of auctions.”

The costs of building the interface and maintaining it are virtually nothing, says Sheriff Mollohan. The tool was designed in-house by the planning department’s GIS administrator Danielle Lamborn and GIS technician Joshua Shepherd.

“It took us about a month’s worth of work to build it, but now that it’s automatic, it’ll just need a quick check once per week to make sure it’s functioning properly,” said Ms. Lamborn. “The GIS infrastructure is something the county started building about five years ago as a resource for taxpayers in the planning department and public safety. So we already had the technology, this is just a way to get even more use out of it.”

Regardless, the Sheriff’s office is confident any costs will quickly be defrayed by added revenue. Increased sales translate into more commissions and fees collected by the Sheriff’s office at auctions. Depending on the type of sale, the commission rate is 4 percent with a minimum cap of $500 and a maximum cap of $10,000.

Also, when abandoned foreclosures are purchased by developers or homeowners, it presumably translates into a widened tax base.

“I’ve seen that a lot of these foreclosures have been sticking around abandoned for 8 or 12 years,” said Sheriff Mollohan. “It’s beneficial to the county if we get them sold, and the best way to do that is get the information out there about them to raise interest. Increase sales will broaden the tax base and help raise nearby property values as well — abandoned homes aren’t good for anyone.”

Sheriff Mollohan notes that at their Oct. 4 sale, 36 of 50 foreclosed properties sold.

“Those numbers can fluctuate pretty drastically from month to month,” he added.

The new mapping system is automatically updated three times per day to reflect changing conditions.

“It’s important because properties come off the list all the time for various reasons — that’s useful information for a potential bidder,” said Sheriff Mollohan.

Several nearby states and cities — namely Philadelphia — have recently adopted similar systems, added Sheriff Mollohan, but so far, Kent is the first county in the state to use one.

“The courts have put us in charge of selling the properties, and we want to do the best we can to get the property out there into the public,” said Sheriff Mollohan.

“We’re responsible for doing public notice too, and this is another way to accomplish that. This gives us a model that we can continue to build on and grow – we’re in the process right now of looking into how a ‘street view’ of the properties might be included.”

The Sheriff’s Office hosts a foreclosure sale on the first Thursday of the month and a tax sale once per quarter at the Kent County Levy Court Building on 555 Bay Road in Dover.

For more information, visit co.kent.de.us/sheriffs-office.aspx.

To use the new mapping tool, visit co.kent.de.us/apps/sheriff/.

 

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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