Properties sold for mortgage foreclosures and judgments are processed through the Sheriff’s office. Effective January 1, 2007, sheriff sales are held on alternate Wednesdays, generally between 10:00 AM and noon, in the Sheriff’s office on the first floor of the Mifflin County Courthouse. The Sheriff’s sale is an auction of the mortgaged premises pursuant to a judgment and Writ of Execution.
Execution is commenced by the plaintiff in a civil action filing a Praecipe for a Writ of Execution with the Prothonotary. Then the Prothonotary issues the Writ, which is delivered to the Sheriff.
It is recommended that the plaintiff provide written directions to the Sheriff concerning the execution. Service is made by the Sheriff within ninety (90) days. Each individual writ and sale is scheduled for a specific time on a specific date.
The filing of a bankruptcy by a defendant prior to a Sheriff sale is certainly not uncommon. That filing produces an automatic stay in the sale proceedings. The stay continues until the plaintiff obtains an order discharging the property from the custody of the bankruptcy court or until the bankruptcy court issues an order releasing the property for sale.
In this situation, a continuance of the sale by oral public announcement at the place and time of the scheduled sale does not violate the automatic stay provisions of the Bankruptcy Code. Rule 3129.3(b) states that a sale can be continued no more than twice to a date certain within one hundred thirty (130) days without a new notice.
Sales are advertised in the Lewistown Sentinel once a week for three (3) successive weeks prior to the sale. Sheriff sale handbills are posted on the property and in the Sheriff’s office at least thirty (30) days prior to the sale date.
The Sheriff does not have physical access to the properties listed for sale. Inquiries about gaining access to view properties should be directed to the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney. A property may be removed from the sale list by the plaintiff prior to sale for a number of reasons. If a defendant cures a default, plaintiff is required to provide our office with the amount received when stayed.
The Sheriff’s Office sells the properties “as is” and the Sheriff is not responsible for a clear title. You may want to search the records in the Prothonotary’s Office and Recorder of Deeds’ Office or obtain professional assistance in searching titles through an attorney or title searcher to determine the lien status.
The auction is conducted by the Sheriff. Bidding starts with an opening bid of costs determined by the Sheriff. The property is sold to the highest bidder. You will be bidding against the plaintiff, which is usually a bank or mortgage company in the foreclosure action. The Plaintiff has a predetermined amount that it will bid, the amount of which only the plaintiff knows.
If you are the successful bidder, you will be required to immediately deposit ten (10%) percent of the bid with the Sheriff. Payment must be in the form of cash, certified check or personal check payable to the Sheriff of Mifflin County previously cleared with the Sheriff prior to the sale. Realty transfer taxes and delinquent real estate taxes are paid from the bid price. Current year’s real estate taxes not yet turned in to the Tax Claim Bureau are the responsibility of the purchaser. The balance of the bid is due within thirty (30) days, or the deposit paid is subject to forfeiture.
Exceptions to a sale of property or the Schedule of Distribution can be filed within ten (10) days after posting of the Schedule of Distribution. After all money is paid and if no exceptions are filed, the Sheriff’s deed will be recorded. The properties are owned by the debtors until the deed is recorded, but a purchaser has an equitable interest in the property when his bid is accepted and may want to secure fire insurance on that interest.
The Sheriff’s Department strongly encourages using the short form description for advertisement purposes. This procedure saves money, paper and confusion. This brief description would include, but not be limited to, the following:
1. Address of property, including township or borough;
2. Record Book or Deed Book and page number references;
3. Approximate size of the property;
4. Tax Map Reference Number; and
5. Improvements on the property.
Our office would, of course, include the remaining items of Pa. R.C.P. 3129.2(b) in the handbill and newspaper advertisement. The plaintiff still must provide us with the full metes-and-bounds description for the Sheriff's Deed. That description should be on a separate sheet or sheets of paper for direct attachment to the Sheriff's Deed.
Interested bidders may want to check the Rule 3129.1 affidavit filed in the Prothonotary’s Office by the plaintiff. This document purportedly lists all judgment creditors whose judgments are record liens on the real estate to be sold.
On most occasions, the first lien creditor, bank or mortgage company is the purchaser and buys back the property by bidding less than the mortgage owed on it. All expenses, fees, costs and charges incidental to the execution and sale are paid from the proceeds of the sale or the required twenty-five hundred ($2,500.00) dollar deposit by the plaintiff prior to scheduling sale.
Sales are often postponed for various reasons. Rule 3129.3 states that a sale can be continued or postponed to a date certain within 130 days if a public announcement is made at the original place and time of the scheduled sale. No additional newspaper notice is required. Interested bidders may want to telephone the Sheriff’s office prior to the sale to ascertain if there is a last-minute postponement.
So that the Sheriff can record the deed conveying the property to the purchaser, the Sheriff must receive from the purchaser or his representative a Realty Transfer Tax Statement of Value affidavit. That affidavit of value should be completed and signed by the purchaser or his representative. That affidavit must be completed in all respects at the time of settlement.
The $300.00 debtor’s exemption is not available in the sale of real estate secured by a mortgage on a judgment obtained in foreclosing on the mortgage. The General Lien Priority Law provides a starting point for determining the payment of liens. Determining which lien should be paid first out of the proceeds of sale and in what order the subsequent liens should be paid is in many instances a very complex and time-consuming task. Even though the Sheriff is not required to prepare and file a Schedule of Distribution when the property is sold to the plaintiff for costs only, Mifflin County does prepare a Schedule of Distribution for every property sold.
Sheriff sales are NOT tax sales for delinquent real estate taxes. If you desire information concerning tax sales, you should contact the Mifflin County Tax Claim Bureau.
This information is intended to provide answers to questions most frequently asked. The Sheriff assumes no liability for actions taken or forbearance. As in all legal matters, the advice of an attorney may be desirable.