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By CHARLES RICHARDS
The long-abandoned, fire-ravaged Cherry Street Manor property in the 2100 block of East Cherry St. was auctioned off on Tuesday afternoon for $9,000.
It was the largest of 67 cash sales totaling $50,500 in 90 minutes of sometimes frenzied bidding in a sheriff’s tax sale on the east steps of the Lamar County Courthouse.
Not only did the City of Paris pick up more than $50,000 for the sales of a lot of rundown property, it will no longer have to cut the weeds and other growth through the year.
“I am very thrilled. I’m very, very happy,” Paris mayor AJ Hashmi said after all was said and done.
“The best thing about all this is that these properties will be back on the tax roll and will be taken care of by the new owners, rather than by the city,” Hashmi said. “This is the largest tax sale ever for the city.”
The mayor said he was tempted to buy some property himself, but decided to stay on the sidelines. He was an interested observer, instead.
In all, there were 102 pieces of property on the auction block, 35 got no bids, and 41 tracts went for the minimum bid of $200 to the only person who bid on them.
As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The 26 other properties went for anywhere from $400 to $9,000.
It was announced in advance that the auction would start at 1:30 p.m., and that a second auction would be held in February for any properties not gotten to by 4:30 p.m. The Cherry Street manor was No. 78 out of 102, and there was the thought that the bidding on it might not come until February.
Well, the whole auction on Tuesday took only an hour an 15 minutes. By 2:45 p.m., it was all done.
“It was quite interesting, very spirited at times,” said auctioneer John Bolster of Longview, who is an employee of Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson of Tyler, the law firm that was in charge of the sheriff’s sale.
“Just in my head, it looks like we probably got well in excess of $20,000 worth of cash sales today,” he said.
He was probably surprised when he heard the final number — $50,500 for the 67 lots that were sold.
“Once property has been abandoned, people usually quit paying taxes on it. Normally, a year or so has to go by before we foreclose the tax liens on it. The first time we sell property, the law requires us to sell it for the amount of tax against it, and frequently that exceeds what people are willing to pay for the property,” Bolster said.
“So then it gets struck off to the city and the county and the school district. And then we come back and do what we did today, and have these resells,” Bolster said.
“The one I was most pleased about was Cherry Street Manor, because I was worried that was going to become a liability to the city, that nobody was going to take that into private ownership,” Bolster added.
Jayme Jeccon, who lives off FM 195, was the high bidder for the former nursing home, whose value was listed on the information sheets as $378,120.
When Jeccon opened the bidding for the property, there was an immediate bid of $1,000, rather than the usual $200 minimum opening bid. Right away, someone else bid $2,000.
“OK, before everybody starts bidding, there are going to be some issues with asbestos and stuff with this property,” Bolster said. “Does your bid still stand?”
Three or four bidders alternated with thousand dollar raises, until finally Jeccon’s bid of $9,000 ended things.
“I don’t have any plans. I just bought it for an investment, “ Jeccon said afterward.
“We just came for the auction and just got lucky, I guess,” she said. In all, she acquired nine pieces of struck-off property for $11,900. Besides the big bid, Jeccon got four tracts for the minimum $200, one for $300, one for $400, one for $500, and one for $900.
Another person spent $3,200 on seven properties – three for $200, one for $500, one for $600, one for $700, and one for $800.
Reeves Hayter spent $5,800, including two for $2,300, one for $1,000 and one for $200.
“One of them is a house. It needs a lot of work,” he said.
The most spirited and humorous bidding of the day was for a vacant lot at 1305 Pine Bluff, fairly early in the auction.
“It’s next door to me. I live right west of it,” Jerry Haning said. “The house on it burned about five years ago. The city had to tear it down and had to maintain it – somewhat. It was the only piece of property I was interested in.”
He got it, but not without a battle.
“There were just three of us bidding on it, to start with.,” Haning said.
Once the bidding got to $2,000 it was just Haning and one other man.
“The bid is $2,000 ….” Auctioneer Bolster said.
Over the next several minutes, the two bidders took turns with $100 increases – no more, no less — all the way to $6,000. Several times, Bolster was just about to end it, when another raise was offered.
Finally, after Haning nodded, signifying he would go to $6,000, his bidding rival said, “I think I’m going to let him have it.”
A similar bidding contest developed over a 28.9-acre tract in northwest Paris that was advertised as “land-locked,” meaning you can’t get to it without crossing someone else’s property.
But two bidders kept outbidding each other until the winning bid of $6,000 was finally recognized.
“I’m guessing you’re either a helicopter pilot or you own the property next door,” Bolster said.
“You got it,” the winner bidder said. The resident who lives on the other side of the land-locked property was the other person in the bidding.
Gene McWaters, a developer who lives in southwest Paris, was the winning bidder for a lot at 577 Price St., for $400.
It’s a small lot, but it’s adjacent to another small lot that McWaters already owns.
“The first thing I’ll do is combine them into one lot,” said McWaters, who plans to build a new residence there.
One of the happiest winning bidders was Don Cato, who is the only resident on Orange Street, a one-block street that runs east to west off of Southwest Fourth Street leading to the City of Paris mulching location.
Three abandoned lots on the street – one with a dilapidated house — were for sale. Now, Cato owns them all.
“I picked up all three for $600. I have been praying for it. People came by looking at the and said, “I don’t want this.” Nobody but me did. It just worked out.”
He and his wife are raising a granddaughter, “and I’m going to put it in her name in case something happens. I’ve had four strokes and two heart attacks in the last two and a half years. Just trying to survive,” he said.
“I’m going to clear it out, put a fence around it and redo it. I’m going to use it as an investment and storage,” Cato said.