Sunday, September 2, 2012

Winning Bidders At Foreclosed Home Auction Invest Time, Money Into Fix-Up Only To Then Find Out They Bought Wrong Property

In Spartanburg, South Carolina, the Spartanburg Herald Journal reports:

  • A local couple hopes their misfortunes with the purchase of a foreclosed property will serve as a cautionary tale for anyone seeking to buy a home cheap.

    Earlier this year, Benjamin and Railynn Spence saw what they thought was an available house in the city at 777 Hayne St. listed with the Spartanburg County Forfeited Land Commission.

    The couple made a bid on the property for $601.64 on March 2. The Spences said they were informed by the county auditor's office on March 28 that they had the winning bid, and they needed to come down and fill out some final paperwork.

    At the signing, the couple said an official told them it would take two to six weeks for them to receive their deed. They said the official also handed them a docket that contained pictures of the house and other documentation that confirmed the home's address, and they walked away with the understanding that the home was theirs.

    By the end of May, the Spences, who had been keeping an eye on the property, said they still had not yet received their deed. But they were anxious to move in, so the couple began working on the house — painting, scraping and re-installing wiring and plumbing that was missing from the structure. On July 14, they moved all of their belongings from their hotel room to the home and continued fixing up the place.

    I had people pull up in the front yard telling me ‘You're doing such a good job,' ” Benjamin Spence said. “They told me that it was such an eyesore before and to keep up the good work.”

    Last Tuesday, the couple was at home when a city inspector and Spartanburg Public Safety Department officers came knocking on their front door. The inspector told them that the property's owner wanted them out of the house, and they had two weeks to vacate.

    We were like ‘what?' ” Railynn Spence said. “We said, ‘We're the owners. We bought it out of an FLC sale.' ”

    The Spences said they went up to the county's Delinquent Tax Office. There, an official showed them that the parcel number for the home at 777 Hayne St. ended in the digits 156.00, and paperwork showed that the Spences had made their bid on a parcel ending in 157.00, which was the empty lot.

    I told them, why would we buy a property with no house?” Benjamin Spence said. “Why would we do all of the work on a house that wasn't ours? Even one of the policemen said that squatters don't fix up houses, so we couldn't be squatters. The paperwork clearly showed the address on the house was 777. How else would we have found the place?

    Frustrated, the Spences decided to pack their bags. The county mailed them a refund for their bid on Aug. 17, and the couple was busy this week moving into a temporary home provided by one of Benjamin's friends.

    We would've still been in the dark about this had (the inspector) not come by to tell us,” Railynn Spence said.

    According to officials, the cause of the confusion over the address was caused by the renumbering of lots along the west side of Hayne Street near the intersection of Williams Street that was conducted in early March.

    The restructuring was done to make sure that the addresses matched up with the parcel numbers on file with the assessor's office. The Spences' lot was given the address of 757 Hayne St. and the house remained at 777 Hayne St.

    A county official said the Spences won their bid while the addresses were in the process of being updated. The photos of the home were included in the information docket likely as a point of reference for the address.

    On the tax records, that (empty) lot was given the same address as the house. A lot of times that happens when the lot is at one point tied to the house,” said Steve Ford, with the auditor's office. “In this case, the property had the correct address when it was sold even though the map numbers were different. By the time they realized it, the address was different.”
  • The Spences estimated that they have put $3,500 to $4,000 of work, including materials and man hours, into the house. [...] Benjamin Spence said he is facing a $350 fine from Spartanburg Water System for turning on the home's water to inspect for leaks in the plumbing prior to moving in.
For more, see Spartanburg couple finds home isn't theirs (Buyers need to be wary).

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