By Laura Camper
Some 10 people lounged in the shade of the Coweta County Courthouse steps on Tuesday, settled in for a day of auctions.
It might be a short day, or it could be a full day depending on how quickly the criers get there, they said.
The criers — those presenting the properties for sale — often go to multiple courthouses during the day.
In Georgia, just one day a month is set aside for the auctions: the first Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The properties are advertised in the local paper of record for 30 days before the auction.
Some of the foreclosures may be resolved before the auction, said Stephen Cherkas, who was representing a buyer at the auction.
On this day for instance, auction.com, one of the criers originally listed four properties, but three were canceled.
That means either the properties were sold privately prior to the auction, the owners got caught up on their past due amount or they declared bankruptcy, Cherkas said.
The foreclosure sales can be heart-wrenching events, he said. Sometimes, the owners who are losing the properties can be seen crying during the sale, Cherkas said.
Nathan Esparza, a real estate agent who was representing a company that purchases properties to flip on this day, agreed.
“In many, many cases it’s owners that have had issues. You know, they’ve had a loss of job; they’ve had illness,” Esparza said. “It’s sad.”
Joseph Schneider, of Rockdale, said he’s worked on the other side of the auctions, cleaning out the houses of the evicted owners. That is a tough job, he said.
“Sometimes you got kids in there,” Schneider said. “You literally got to take out the drawers in the kitchen and empty them and it’s like everybody’s got a miscellaneous drawer, so it’s like their life.”
He started working the auctions for Lakeshore Trust Inc., as a once-a-month side job for a little extra money. He’s more removed from the process this way, Schneider said.
Not everyone is sad about the auctions, Cherkas said. Sometimes the property owners are the beneficiaries of a deceased relative waiting for the foreclosure sale so they can get out from under a burden, Cherkas said.
And sometimes, the neighbors are happy because a problem property that has been empty for years will be cleaned up, repaired and sold to someone who has the means to take care of it, he said.
On Tuesday, there were no crying owners and the majority of the bidders were working for someone else.
Ashley Yates, of Lumpkin County, who was representing Local Homes LLC, said that she’d been attending the monthly auctions for about two years and in all the sales she’d attended most of the bidders were working for someone else, usually an investor who planned to renovate and flip the property.
Schneider said his boss sends people all over metro-Atlanta to the auctions.
“He has probably about five or six of me and he sends us out to different counties depending on what he’s researched over the month,” Schneider said. “He gives us a spreadsheet with the address and the max bid he’s willing to go on it. If it goes over that, I just bow out.”
Esparza said in his 27 years in real estate, he has purchased hundreds of properties through the auctions, sometimes for himself, or with partners and sometimes for someone else.
“Not all of them are in foreclosure, though,” he said. “Some are in pre-foreclosure. Sometimes I get a call from somebody who says, ‘Hey, my friend’s in trouble and they want to sell their house.’”
Sometimes, he might see the advertisement in the paper and approach the owners before the sale to see if they want to sell privately.
That approach can benefit both the owners and the buyers, Esparza said. It can save owners from having a foreclosure on their records and it could let them walk away with a little money in their pockets, Esparza said. For him, it means that he’s not in competition with other bidders for the property.
Schneider said there were three properties on his list on Tuesday. One had already sold for far beyond what his employer wanted to spend, He had no idea when the other criers for the other properties would get to the courthouse, he said.
Sometimes the criers see the same bidders at multiple auctions and become friendly with them, Yates said. Then, they might text with an estimate of when they’ll get to the courthouse. But none of them had heard anything yet.
It’s always a good day when they come early and he doesn’t have to spend all day in the heat, or rain, or cold, depending on the time of year, Schneider said. But he’ll wait.
“It’s a good payday for me,” Schneider said.