BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Erie County officials are offering would-be homeowners a low-cost of way of buying into one of the hottest real estate markets in the country, Thursday morning, at the county’s annual Tax Foreclosure auction.

The reality of tax foreclosure sales is that one person’s loss can be someone else’s gain, but county officials said there are a couple of bright spots for this week’s county auction of tax-foreclosed properties: a record number of homeowners are working out installment plans to pay the back taxes they owe and keep their homes.

With investors from all over the world looking to take advantage of Buffalo’s relatively low real estate prices, proceeds from property sold on the auction block should bring should also surpass previous in rem sales.

Joseph Maciejewski, Erie County’s Director of Real Property Tax Services said property tax sales also serve another purpose, “In some cases where they are vacant, we are going to take it, we are going to get it in the hands of good responsible investors who will repair the properties, put them back on the assessment rolls.”

Real estate investor Christopher Williams has put hundreds of foreclosed properties back on the tax rolls, including a three-bedroom house he won in a bidding war at last year’s county auction. It was a neighborhood eyesore when it went on the auction block—thick vines covering up the front and porch–and Williams said it was just as bad on the inside.

After cleaning up and repair the three-bedroom house, Chris has sold it, helping the new buyers get a piece of the American Dream, “From my understanding–I have never met them–but through their agent, I understand they are first time homebuyers. They got a really good deal on the house, it is really in good shape, and they are really excited to move in.”

But Chris said, flipping the house was hard work, “There was just a lot of garbage, a lot of filth and it just needed a lot of restoration. We did some modernizing and updating, and made sure everything works, and we turned it around, and it turned out pretty nice.”

Maciejewski said homeowners who are in danger of losing their property due to unpaid property taxes can work out payment plans and keep their homes off the auction block, and this year, he said more than 180 homeowners have already done that.

“We have hardship cases. We have people that have lost their job, or have a sick family member, and we have 187 payment plans.”

Erie County’s Tax Foreclosure auction is this Thursday morning, at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. Homeowners trying for a last minute reprieve can ask to work out a payment plan until Wednesday morning.

Interested parties can review the list of tax delinquent properties available for sale, on this page at Erie County’s Office of Real Property Tax Services’ website.