Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas’ 2022 Scavenger Sale will look different as the Treasurer’s Office takes steps to help small developers, homeowners and investors rebuild neighborhoods and create generational wealth.
Under Illinois law, the Treasurer’s Office is required to conduct a Scavenger Sale every two years, offering at auction the taxes on properties with three or more years of delinquent taxes. The Sale is scheduled to take place Feb. 14 through March 2.
How the Scavenger Sale works
A property’s unpaid taxes are sold for cash bids. The minimum bid is $250.
The amounts bid typically are significantly less than the total amount of delinquent taxes and interest due. The highest bidder wins a lien on the property. If the current property owner does not redeem (pay) the delinquent taxes within a certain time period (typically 2 1⁄2 years for residential properties and six months for commercial properties and vacant lots), the tax buyer can petition the Circuit Court of Cook County for a deed to take ownership of the property.
Tax buyers do not pay delinquent taxes on a property. However, after the sale but prior to getting a deed, the buyer must pay whatever taxes went unpaid after the Scavenger Sale. Bidder registration for the sale will take place Jan. 14 through Feb. 4.
What’s included in the Scavenger Sale
The 2022 Scavenger Sale includes 31,209 property index numbers, or PINs, with 14,598 of them in the City of Chicago and 16,611 in suburban Cook County. The unpaid taxes on those properties totals almost $1.15 billion countywide, including $254.9 million just in Chicago, and adds to the financial challenges many communities face.
More than half of the PINs are vacant lots and many are on the same block, creating opportunities for meaningful development. The list includes thousands of properties in Chicago and suburban Cook County that were originally offered at previous Scavenger Sales but were not sold.
What’s new for the 2022 Scavenger Sale
Changes to the 2022 Cook County Scavenger Sale are intended to remove potential barriers for bidders, increase transparency and make the Scavenger Sale more successful. The changes include:
The list is now free. The Treasurer’s Office has removed the $250 fee required to obtain a list of all Property Index Numbers (PINs) scheduled to be offered during the sale.
The list is downloadable. The entire list is available at cookcountytreasurer.com to view and/or download.
There is a searchable map. A new interactive map will allow anyone to view all properties on the Sale list, see how many are in a certain community and block and learn the characteristics of each property to be offered.
Why the changes matter
A 2020 Treasurer’s Office study of seven Scavenger Sales conducted from 2007 to 2019 found the process, created in 1939 by the General Assembly, no longer is an effective tool in returning properties to productive use and the tax rolls. Out of 51,320 unique properties offered over 13 years at the Scavenger Sale, just 3,655 were purchased by private buyers.
Pappas said her changes to the 2022 Scavenger Sale are incremental improvements that may increase the Sale’s success while her office formulates more improvements.
“By making the list free, putting it online and making an easily searchable map, I hope we see more potential bidders intent on improving their communities. A vacant lot could become a side yard, helping a homeowner build generational wealth. A cluster of parcels could attract a local developer interested in adding new houses to a block,” Pappas said.
How communities can benefit from the Scavenger Sale
One participant at several previous Scavenger Sales was Noble Development Associates, headed by Louis Williams and Yolanda Davis. With roots in the community, Williams and Davis decided to focus on the area near Garfield Boulevard and Shields Avenue in the northeast corner of Englewood.
Since winning bids, Noble has gone through the court process to obtain the deeds to dozens of vacant lots in the neighborhood. Now it plans to partner with developers to build homes. “We have a significant investment in the neighborhood,” Williams said.
Construction is expected to start this spring on a three-flat at 333 W. Garfield Boulevard that Noble has sold to developers and real estate agents Rich Aronson of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago and Greg Viti of Keller Williams ONEChicago Lincoln Park. They hope to sell it to someone who will live in the building.
“The ultimate goal is the create ownership and generational wealth,” Aronson said. “We want to recreate the neighborhood.”
“Throughout Cook County, there are groups and individuals working hard to better the lives of the people around them,” Pappas added. “The Scavenger Sale can be an effective tool to obtain a deed to a property that no longer has delinquent taxes attached to it.”
For more information, visit cookcountytreasurer.com