Residents can soon bid on north LC property

 Thursday, October 27, 2016 1:46 PM

By Emily Fontenot / American Press

Starting Nov. 1, north Lake Charles properties once repossessed by the state will be auctioned off online in an effort to recirculate them and spur development, city officials said Wednesday.

The Lake Charles North Redevelopment Authority began working with New Orleans company CivicSource, which markets adjudicated properties online, earlier this year.

Authority President Kathleen Dorsey Bellow said she and her team have been busy selecting properties to put on the company’s website.

CivicSource Chief Legal Officer Stephen Morel visited Lake Charles on Wednesday to explain the process and answer questions from the community. Over 100 people came out for the event.

Starting Nov. 1, residents can shop for local properties through CivicSource, Morel said. Once someone places an $850 deposit on a property, CivicSource will prepare it for auction. He said the deposit will go toward final payment if the person wins. If the person doesn’t win, he or she will get the deposit back.

After 90-120 days of legal work, which includes contacting heirs and securing title insurance, the property will be auctioned 8 a.m.-8 p.m. on that month’s designated auction date, which usually falls on a Wednesday, Morel said. The auction will be hosted on CivicSource’s website. The winning bidder will receive full ownership of the property at no additional cost, he said. All payments must be made within 48 hours of closing.

One question asked by the public dealt with the built-in cost of legal work. Morel said legal work costs about $5,000 on average, but could be much lower or higher depending on the number of heirs and amount of work needed to prepare the property for auction. He said bidding will start at whatever the price of legal work ends up being.

Another question dealt with rights of adjoining landowners. Morel said that if adjoining landowners meet certain criteria, they are granted right of first refusal on that property and can buy it before it goes to auction.

Morel said there are 4,000 adjudicated properties from across the state for sale on CivicSource’s website and that the number is growing.

Bellow said Lake Charles is putting 75 properties online Nov. 1 as a trial run. There are over 300 adjudicated properties in north Lake Charles alone, she said. The city will consider putting the rest up based on how well the public responds to the first 75, she said.

The goal of using CivicSource is for property buyers “to get a more excellent product,” since all the legal work will be taken care of by a team of professionals, Bellow said. The process is too complicated for a person to battle alone, she said, and CivicSource has built-in resources that take away the headache.

Bellow said the goal of recirculating property is for north Lake Charles to see healthy new development in the near future. Many people leave the area after going off to school or getting a job, she said, and the city wants to encourage them to give back to the area.

“We want them to come back home to bring back vitality to the community,” she said.