FULTON – At Fulton Common Council meetings, the councilors vote on the sale of tax-foreclosed properties that have been fixed up by the city, a practice established since Mayor Ronald Woodward has been in office.
When a home or commercial building is tax-foreclosed in Fulton, it goes to the control of the city.
The city used to sell the properties at auction, but Woodward said this was not optimal because they would often be sold to “absentee landlords.”
“Now, before we sell them, I’ll go to them or one of my contractors or councilors, and we rehab them ourselves and we sell them at market value,” Woodward said. “We’ve been doing it a long time and it’s been a big success.”
Woodward said this process adds value to both the property and the neighborhood it is in because it puts it back on the tax roll, benefiting all of Fulton. He said it also helps to bring in more families and businesses to the city.
City Chamberlain Daniel O’Brien said the process starts after taxes on a property have not been paid for two years and the tax-foreclosure proceedings begin.
This can usually take up to six months, then the mayor’s office surveys the property to see what needs to be fixed before contracting with a real estate agency.
O’Brien said in some cases, the property can be too dilapidated to fix and needs to be demolished. Other times the property is rehabilitated and brought up to code, ready for a family or business to move in to.
For several years Woodward has handled tax-foreclosed properties in a different manner than some of Fulton’s neighboring cities.
The City of Oswego handles these properties with an alternative method. Mayor Billy Barlow said if it is a residential property, they put the information on their website and see what inquiries are made, usually at a first come first served basis.
They then hold a committee meeting and bring in the would-be owner to discuss their intentions with the property. Then they accept, counter or deny the offer.
Barlow said sometimes they put stipulations on it, such as if they do not plan to make it a rental property or if they have a plan to update part of it.
“Generally we like to sell to people who will improve the home and flip it or to somebody who’s going to improve the home and actually move in to it,” Barlow said.
For a commercial building or a property thought to have a lot of interest, they hold the offers for a certain period of time to make sure everyone who might want it has been able to make an offer before reviewing them.
Barlow said Fulton’s method is good for that city, but he personally prefers to put the investment in the hands of the property owners. He said Oswego does not do it the same because their Department of Public Works have “more than enough of their plate” with improvement projects throughout the city.
“We have to expend a little bit on the front end to get some of these properties up to code and in good looking neighborhood condition, because this improves the neighborhoods too when you fix them all up,” O’Brien said. “It’s been really good for the community.”