It is another sign of our economy today. Hundreds of properties each month go up for auction at sheriff sales in Delaware during an average month. Behind every property, there is a story.
That’s not the way it used to be. New Castle County Sheriff Trinidad Navarro says the average monthly list has has grown to about 350 properties at the sheriff sales. Before the recession there were only a handful of properties at the monthly sheriff sales. Those sales are usually held in Wilmington on the second Tuesday of each month. The sale scheduled for January 10 has already reached the maximum, and sales are already being scheduled for February.
Once a property gets to his office, Navarro says “there’s really no discretion in our office.”
Getting help before things go too far
“What we try to do as often as possible is help people who are in the process point them in the right direction, whether it’s the Attorney General’s office, or the banking commissioner, to try to help them whenever we can,” Navarro adds. “Unfortunately, history tells us that many of these properties are already too far gone, folks are over their heads or it’s just a bad investment. What we’ve seen, in many cases, is people putting good money into a bad investment.”
A community center in Hockessin is among the properties scheduled to go up for sale in January due to unpaid construction debts. The building was once a big piece of Delaware history. It served as school where black students were educated during the days of segregation. There is still hope something can be done for the community center before the sale on the 10th.
A January 5 auction in Dover will include about 130 properties, according to Kent County Sheriff Norman Wood. There had been an average of about 90 to 100 per month. Wood says he chose not to hold an auction in December, which could have resulted in evictions taking place during the holidays.
Both Wood and Navarro are in their first terms as sheriff and that’s what makes this process tough for them.
“It’s steady,” Wood says. “I have four deputies on the road where I used to have three. They keep busy.”
The sheriff sale process has gotten extra attention in the past two months as members of Occupy Delaware have shown up at the New Castle County auctions to attempt to halt the proceedings, alleging that banks are refusing to negotiate with homeowners.
Sheriff sales can sometimes get emotional, according to Navarro. Also, the person losing a property is often not fully aware of his or her rights even after the transaction.
“We try to treat people like people, not like numbers,” Navarro says.