You might say properties at CBRM tax auction are at fire-sale price

·3 min read

Some people go to municipal tax sales to pick up properties on the cheap, but there's at least one property at Cape Breton Regional Municipality's next sale that's not such a bargain.

The empty lot on Main Street in Glace Bay is valued at $31,500 for tax purposes, but it's listed on the tax sale for $349,000.

"That's certainly not a typical value that you'll see on our tax sale," said CBRM finance manager Adam MacNeil. "It's the highest one that I've seen."

The former Billy D's Lounge — also known as the Guildwood building — burned down in 2016. The municipality had to clean up the lot.

Taxes, cleanup costs add to sale price

The $349,000 tax sale listing consists of taxes owing, plus the cleanup costs.

The lot is just down the street from the new police building and is across the street from the business district on the corner of Commercial and Union streets.

While it might be a good location, a tax sale price that is 10 times the assessed value will likely scare off buyers, said MacNeil.

"It would be unlikely that that property would be marketable enough or valuable enough to yield someone to come in and pay that amount of money for it, so you'll likely see that go to tender," MacNeil said.

Properties that don't get sold at auction are later put out to tender at the cost of one year's taxes or $600, whichever is higher, he said.

130 properties listed

More than 130 properties are listed for CBRM's next sale.

Officials recently cancelled an in-person tax sale in favour of a tender format in keeping with COVID-19 safety protocols. The date of the sale and bidding information will be announced on the municipality's website.

Properties start at $600 and go up from there.

An apartment block on Mount Carmel Avenue in New Waterford is up for tax sale, with $84,272.32 owing, and a former apartment building on Convent Street in New Waterford is on the block with $92,870.99 owing.

Some might consider the apartment property on Mount Carmel Avenue a bargain, because its assessed value is $214,000.

The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press

However, the former apartment on Convent Street burned down recently and the remains had to be cleaned up by the municipality, with the cost added to the taxes. With a property assessment of $98,400, it is perhaps less attractive to potential buyers.

Fame may not bring fortune

Nine properties on the list are owned by Richard Hatch of Rhode Island, who was famous for being the first person to win the TV reality show Survivor.

All of the properties are vacant and eight have an assessed value of $500. The taxes owing on those properties is roughly $1,000 each.

One of Hatch's properties is a wedge-shaped empty lot valued at $2,300 that has more than $3,000 in taxes owing.

According to provincial property records, the nine parcels are among 30 empty lots Hatch owns in CBRM, mostly in the Glace Bay area.

MacNeil said having properties with a famous owner like Hatch doesn't necessarily attract buyers.

"I find most of our interest in properties is certainly based off location, any development opportunities that may be available to that area, and certainly if you own a property adjacent to a piece of land that's on our tax sale, that's very appealing for individuals," he said.