ELKO — It isn’t beachfront property, but for those with the mind to, it’s worth taking a gamble on.
The 100-plus bidders who showed up at the delinquent tax property auction Tuesday were there on a mission to purchase a piece real estate in rural Nevada.
“We’re just private investors,” said Charlotte Abbott, owner of Smile4U Inc., a private wholesale land company based out of Lynden, Wash. “(With land) if the market drops, you still own it.”
The Elko County Treasurer’s Office auctioned off 158 pieces of property for a grand total of $450,200, said Treasurer Rebecca Erickson. In the past few years, the range has been closer to $250,000 with about 70 registered bidders.
Abbott buys property from auctions all over the western states and resells it online for profit. Her website, smile4u
inc.com, offers between 400-450 pieces of land at any one time, she said.
“Some might call us wholesalers,” she said. “It’s the cheapest land money can buy.”
Abbott is a longtime buyer at the Elko County land auction. On Tuesday, she purchased about 25 properties in rural Nevada, some in the Montello area.
“I really hope someday to build a home here myself,” she said. “I love it here. It’s a special place.”
Elko County has also drawn the attention of other buyers from out of town — and even from out of the country. Jesse Marshall of Calgary, Canada, has been coming to the Elko auction for about a decade, and sometimes lists the properties for his company, Calcan Global Inc.
“Usually I end up keeping them,” Marshall said.
This year, Marshall attended the auction with Ashley Baxter of California.
“Many people go to the beach for a vacation, but we go to Elko,” Baxter said, joking.
The couple purchased has 19 properties in Montello, on U.S. Highway 93 near Jackpot, and in Sun Valley, Baxter said. Marshall owns about 70 properties in Nevada.
“It’s fun to go see the property afterward,” Baxter said. “There’s a couple that you take a gamble on, obviously.”
Their personal tradition is to take lawn chairs and a bottle of champagne out to their new properties to celebrate.
Erickson said many of the bidders return year after year.
“It’s a tight-knit community,” she said.
In the auction room, however, it’s a whole other matter. On Tuesday, Abbott got a few laughs from the crowd when she shouted a last-minute bid on a property others had already bid up. Surprisingly, she got the property for $5,100.
In her professional opinion, some Internet sellers give the rest a bad name.
Abbott met a woman from Lake Tahoe before the auction who said she had been cheated out of her property and was hoping to buy it back at minimum bid. After consulting with a few of her “guys,” Abbott spread the word about the piece of property. The woman placed the minimum bid that morning at the auction, and the next bid was called.
“The room was silent — and everyone clapped,” Abbott said.
As she returns year after year, Abbott hopes to leave a legacy behind.
“I want to inspire others and have a good time,” she said.
This year was the first time the auction took place in the spring, and the first time the county accepted credit cards.
“I think allowing credit cards brought the prices up a bit,” Erickson said.
One reason the office accepted them this year was because the auction took place the day after federal income taxes were due, she said.
Property owners who were delinquent on their taxes have up to one year to reclaim what is left of their property sales revenue after taxes, fees and a percentage due to Elko County is taken out, Erickson said.