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Tax default property sale offers timeshares, riding stables

Single-family homes, vacant lots, agricultural land and timeshares will be up for grabs during the County of San Diego's Property Tax Sale Auction to be held March 19 at the San Diego Convention Center.

Along with 107 improved and 182 unimproved properties, there are 81 timeshares — all of this to offset more than $7.25 million in back taxes, including penalties and fees.

Some of the properties on the block went significantly underwater during the recession — for example, a 1.02-acre residential parcel at 4591 Rancho Del Mar Trail last sold for $2.7 million in October 2007.

"The minimum bid price is $280,000, so this could be quite a bargain for somebody," McAllister said.

McAllister said another bargain is a 4,070-square-foot single-family home with pool at 6132 La Pintura Place in La Jolla, which has a $380,000 minimum bid.

McAllister said the property is probably worth at least twice that amount. The La Jolla property's last arms-length transaction came in 2003, when it sold for $1.75 million.

McAllister said that people will often wait until the last minute to pay back taxes. The tax collector recalled a couple of years ago when just 15 minutes before the tax sale deadline "a man who had a home in the Windansea neighborhood in La Jolla came running up in flip flops and a Hawaiian shirt shouting, ‘Where do I pay, where do I pay?’"

While he said he isn't sure how many owners will make last-minute tax payments, McAllister said he expects it will be a sizable percentage. Others have had some success selling their properties at a substantial discount.

Such was the case when a woman sold a 4,250-square-foot home with a pool at 4037 Sleeping Indian Road in Fallbrook for $670,000 last week. She had paid $1.14 million for the property in 2005. Like the others, that property had been tax defaulted for at least five years.

While he didn't cite any ranches on the list, McAllister said people walk away from their agricultural lands every year.

McAllister said since water has become scarce and expensive, a significant number of parcels in Fallbrook have ended up on the auction block.

"We've seen that since water has become a significant issue," McAllister said.

Most of the agricultural properties are quite small, but McAllister noted they can add up to a lot of acreage over time. Many of these properties grow avocados and citrus.

An example of an agricultural property that isn't about growing produce is the 4.04-acre property at 952 Little Gopher Canyon Road in the Vista/Fallbrook area. That property has been used many years for riding stables.

The Little Gopher Canyon Road property, which sold for $684,500 in 2005, has a minimum bid of $67,000.

Other properties include many landlocked parcels in the backcountry, where development might not even be possible.

McAllister said some people buy the seemingly useless parcels because they want more privacy around their homes.

Interested bidders may buy registration packets for $75 at any of the treasurer-tax collector’s offices in downtown San Diego, Kearny Mesa, Chula Vista, El Cajon or San Marcos. The downtown San Diego office will be the only one accepting cash.

Under state law, the treasurer-tax collector may sell any or all portions of properties that have been in default for five years.

The Board of Supervisors approved 495 properties, including timeshares, for this auction last November, but the number could fall as debtors scramble to beat the clock.

Minimum bids are based on the total back taxes, penalties and sales costs. The successful bidder may take possession of a property after making full payment and after the Tax Deed to Purchaser document has been recorded.

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