Clay County already has doubled what it did last year on its delinquent tax sale with 145 properties still to sell when its online auction resumes again this morning.
And after watching the successful debut in Clay County, West Point may also start conducting its delinquent tax sales online. Clay County sold 723 of 868 properties during Monday's opening day of the online sale.
A total of 23 different buyers purchased parcels, according to Tax Assessor Paige Lamkin.
About $250,000 was owed on those 868 delinquent parcels. Through Monday's sales, $19,589 had been paid in overbids.
In all of last year's sale, the county only received $9,222 in overbids.
"My stomach was churning before we got started this morning. I couldn't wait for 8:30 to get here. But it's going great. We've all found ourselves just watching. It's so different not to have to be reading out every parcel, watching the bidders, writing everything down," Lamkin noted.
"I got to go to lunch on tax sale day. That's unheard of," she added. "It's gone better than we could have hoped. And it is doing what they said it would do, it's driving up competitive bidding," she continued.
Her mother, Pat Dendy, who worked in the tax assessor's office for many years and served as assessor for eight years, was even more impressed by the technology.
"It's amazing, really amazing. It's come such a long way. Anything to make it easier for the staff and the people taking part. This is something else," she said after spending some time watching the auction unfold online.
West Point Mayor Robbie Robinson, City Clerk Eddie Longstreet, and Deputy Clerk Rita Mattox checked in on the system periodically during the day.
The city is considering doing its spring tax sale online and Robinson asked Lamkin for a written synopsis of her thoughts versus the traditional in-person live auction.
"We'll see what she says and look at it," Robinson said. "At a brief glance, it certainly looked like it was working and was efficient."
The system is anonymous so no one knows who other bidders are or what their bids are. Once the live auction began at 8:30 Monday morning, bidders knew whether they've been outbid and could adjust if they wanted to, but they still don't know who they were bidding against.
A number of the Clay County parcels sparked actual bidding wars Monday.
The system continuously lets buyers know how much they've spent and what properties they've bought.
Bidders can see satellite views of the properties as well as traditional plat maps, the assessed values and actual value as well as taxes and fees owed and liens from prior years, if any.
Clay County joins 34 other counties in the state in going to the online system this year. With the online auction, purchases are wrapped up at the end of the sale through the buyer's accounts and revenue information sent to the county, eliminating the days of processing that used to go along with closing out tax sales. GovEase, the contractor for the state, started online tax sales in the state with two counties in 2016 and grew to 19 counties, including Lowndes and Chickasaw, last year.
Lamkin has pushed the online sale as a way to improve efficiency and increase competitive bidding while not cutting out local bidders.
This year, 108 people registered but of those, only 34 went through the entire process to be able to bid. That's apparently pretty common.
In neighboring Lowndes County, 147 people registered but only 51 finished the financial data to be able to actually purchase properties.
And not all those bid in the auction, according to Tax Assessor Greg Andrews, who noted overbids were running at about 11.5 percent on his sale Monday.
GovEase takes a small fee from overbids and none of what the county is owed in taxes and fees.
The company says online bidding increased the overbid rate to 12.2 percent, generating almost $1 million in additional revenues for counties last year. Most analysts say to make money buying property in tax sales, buyers should hover in the range of 5 to 8 percent over the taxes owed. That way even if the properties are redeemed relatively quickly, the buyer still can make money versus traditional investments.
The drawback is the money being tied up for several years. During Clay County's auction Monday, most of the overbids fell in 5-8 percent range, but some exceeded it, running into double digits. A few went off the charts. For instance, one piece of property brought $571 on $444 in taxes owed -- a 128 percent overbid.