Seized and Sold: Inside a tax deed auction in Plymouth, where a familiar face emerges as the buyer

Alex Ray, right, signs a memorandum of sale with NH Tax Deed and Property Auctions after purchasing a single-family home in Plymouth that was seized and sold for unpaid taxes.

Alex Ray, right, signs a memorandum of sale with NH Tax Deed and Property Auctions after purchasing a single-family home in Plymouth that was seized and sold for unpaid taxes. Rich Miyara—Courtesy

LEFT: This home in Plymouth was sold at an auction for $180,000 after the owner owed just over $4,400 in taxes.

LEFT: This home in Plymouth was sold at an auction for $180,000 after the owner owed just over $4,400 in taxes.

Alex Ray, right, signs a memorandum of sale with NH Tax Deed and Property Auctions after purchasing a single-family home in Plymouth that was seized and sold for unpaid taxes.

Alex Ray, right, signs a memorandum of sale with NH Tax Deed and Property Auctions after purchasing a single-family home in Plymouth that was seized and sold for unpaid taxes. Rich Miyara photos / Courtesy

Rick Sager, auctioneer and co-owner of NH Tax Deed & Property Auctions, kicks off an auction in Plymouth last November, to sell a single-family home that was seized and sold for unpaid taxes.

Rick Sager, auctioneer and co-owner of NH Tax Deed & Property Auctions, kicks off an auction in Plymouth last November, to sell a single-family home that was seized and sold for unpaid taxes. Rich Miyara—Courtesy

Rick Sager, auctioneer and co-owner of NH Tax Deed & Property Auctions, kicks off an auction in Plymouth last November, to sell a single-family home that was seized and sold for unpaid taxes.

Rick Sager, auctioneer and co-owner of NH Tax Deed & Property Auctions, kicks off an auction in Plymouth last November, to sell a single-family home that was seized and sold for unpaid taxes. Rich Miyara—Courtesy

Rick Sager, auctioneer and co-owner of NH Tax Deed & Property Auctions, kicks off an auction in Plymouth last November, to sell a single-family home that was seized and sold for unpaid taxes.

Rick Sager, auctioneer and co-owner of NH Tax Deed & Property Auctions, kicks off an auction in Plymouth last November, to sell a single-family home that was seized and sold for unpaid taxes. Rich Miyara—Courtesy

FAR LEFT: Rick Sager, auctioneer and co-owner of NH Tax Deed & Property Auctions.

FAR LEFT: Rick Sager, auctioneer and co-owner of NH Tax Deed & Property Auctions.

Rick Sager, auctioneer and co-owner of NH Tax Deed & Property Auctions, kicks off an auction in Plymouth last November, to sell a single-family home that was seized and sold for unpaid taxes.

Rick Sager, auctioneer and co-owner of NH Tax Deed & Property Auctions, kicks off an auction in Plymouth last November, to sell a single-family home that was seized and sold for unpaid taxes. Rich Miyara—Courtesy

After three years, municipalities can seize properties for unpaid taxes and sell them at a public auction.

After three years, municipalities can seize properties for unpaid taxes and sell them at a public auction. Rich Miyara—Courtesy

After three years, municipalities can seize properties for unpaid taxes and sell them at a public auction.

After three years, municipalities can seize properties for unpaid taxes and sell them at a public auction. Rich Miyara—Courtesy

By MICHAELA TOWFIGHI

Monitor staff

Published: 06-14-2024 2:18 PM

As the gavel came down in Plymouth Town Hall, the man standing in the back corner bought a single-family, four-bedroom, one-bath home with a small barn on an acre and a half of land for $180,000.

The bidder was no stranger to town. Alex Ray, owner and founder of the Common Man Family of Restaurants and a leading voice in the state’s hospitality industry, was set to open a new gift shop on Main Street selling coffee, pizza and donuts.

The house on Fairgrounds Road, which Ray just purchased, would serve as new housing for his employees, he said.

“I have a guy who is sleeping outside and I can’t stand that,” said Ray. “It hurts me to think that people are living in the woods.”

Across the state, municipalities can seize property for unpaid taxes and sell them to recoup the debt. In November, the town of Plymouth held a Saturday afternoon auction to sell a single-family home they’d taken ownership of in August.

The 1,500-square-foot house on Fairgrounds Road was built in 1890 and assessed at $195,800. The owner owed just over $4,400 in back taxes, interest and fines – two percent of the value of the home.

Still, the town hired New Hampshire Tax Deed Auctions, a father-son company, that sells properties for municipalities.

Co-owners Rick and Weston Sager handle the sale of tax deed properties from start to finish for towns all over the state. They advertise the property, host tours, run the auction and work with new owners to close. If the property sells for more than the debt owed, the Sagers are also responsible for filing paperwork with the courts to return the excess proceeds to the former owner, as was the case for this property.

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In return, they receive a 10 percent buyers premium on property sold.

Property records in Plymouth show that the former owner, Scott Gray, also owned another home in town. On the day of the auction, no trespassing signs were affixed to wire fences outside that property.

Over at Plymouth Town Hall, the Sagers set up shop. Prospective bidders were met at the registration table, where a $1,000 cash deposit was required to receive a paddle.

From behind a makeshift podium, Rick Sager, the senior of the two, took his position, gavel in hand.

“Today we have one property and we’ll move quickly so don’t wait too long to bid. In fact, these opening remarks will probably be longer than the auction itself,” he said.

Buyers were required to put down another 10 percent deposit that day, agreeing to close in 30 days.

Ray’s winning bid came in as the 15th offer of the afternoon. For most in the room, it a public spectacle akin to Town Meeting, a reunion of neighbors, old classmates.

From Ray’s perspective, he’d saved a house that afternoon, taking on a new project to help people in need.

“I love saving houses. This one has rotten sills and I love to save houses,” said Ray. “We take care of our people and they take care of us and it works.”