NORRISTOWN — As the coronavirus pandemic continues to grip the region, forcing governments and businesses to change their routines, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office has devised an innovative way to conduct its next sheriff’s sale.
Sheriff Sean Kilkenny will conduct the first online sheriff’s sale in Pennsylvania at 1 p.m. Oct. 28. The virtual sale will be hosted by the online auction company Bid4Assets, which has a long history of working with county tax collectors to conduct online tax foreclosure auctions, commonly known as tax sales, and is expanding into sheriff’s sales.
“We weighed the pros and cons of moving our sheriff sales online and found that there are numerous benefits with little downside for Montgomery County,” Kilkenny said. “COVID-19 was clearly the precipitating factor and an online auction is a safer way to go in the current health crisis.
“Online auctions also attract a wider pool of real estate investors who will buy and renovate foreclosed properties and reduce blight. Bid4Assets’ services come at no cost to Montgomery County and the taxpayers we serve,” Kilkenny added.
The upcoming sale will include properties countywide, including from Norristown, Pottstown, King of Prussia, Lansdale and Willow Grove.
Officials said the online nature of the Bid4Assets platform will eliminate COVID-19 concerns surrounding the sales, allowing auction participants to bid using cellphones, laptops and computers from the safety of their homes.
“We’re honored to work with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office to conduct their sheriff sales online,” said Jesse Loomis, chief executive officer of Bid4Assets. “Bid4Assets has one of the largest databases of real estate investors, approximately 16,000 of which reside in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
“The current health risks associated with gathering at the courthouse has led many sheriffs to reconsider online auctions. We plan to expand our services to other sheriffs in the Commonwealth and all around the U.S.,” Loomis added.
Sheriff sales are auctions conducted by the sheriff’s office and are a result of mortgage foreclosures and money judgments. Montgomery County sheriff sales typically occur on the last Wednesday of the month and are held in a large courtroom at the courthouse.
The sheriff’s sales of real property had been postponed by court order after the pandemic began in March. The decision to bypass the sheriff’s sales was made in accordance with a series of declarations of judicial emergency due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts calling for the temporary suspension of certain court functions and an executive order by Gov. Tom Wolf halting foreclosures and evictions through Aug. 31.
In a July 23 court order, President Judge Thomas M. DelRicci scheduled the Oct. 28 sale to be conducted by way of an online auction format.
“In an effort to foster and maintain appropriate social distancing guidelines during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department shall continue to conduct its sheriff’s sales via this online auction format through March 31, 2021, or upon further order of this court,” DelRicci wrote in the order.
The move to online sheriff’s sales is in accordance with enhanced public safety measures designed to safeguard participants and staff, officials said.
There is no cost for bidders to register on Bid4Assets and view properties, though a $10,000 deposit will be required in order to bid on the auctions. Auctions can be viewed at any time at www.bid4assets.com/MontcoPASheriff
A full listing of properties being sold and additional information about the sale is available on the sheriff’s website at www.montcopa.org/sheriff
Bid4Assets, an online auction site based in Silver Spring, Md., was founded in 1999. The privately held company auctions distressed real estate for the federal government, sheriff’s offices, county tax-collectors, financial institutions and real estate funds. Bid4Assets conducted the first online tax sale and the first online federal forfeiture auction in 2000, according to company officials.