Going once, going twice … office building anyone?

Haywood County is looking to off-load a few of its now vacant office buildings and is searching for help to do it.

The county has been playing musical chairs with several departments during the past year, consolidating county functions once spread out over three separate satellite office buildings into more centralized locations.

Rather than attempt to sell the resulting collection of empty buildings itself, which has yielded no results so far, the county plans to contract a real estate agency to do the job.

“Just putting up a ‘for sale’ sign and hoping someone drives by, there is no real advertisement happening and no connections in the commercial real estate community. We don’t have access to that market,” said County Commissioner Chairman Mark Swanger.

It’s unclear just what the county can hope to get in the current real estate climate. Although the county is paying for basic maintenance and upkeep of the buildings until they sell, the county can simply wait until a decent offer comes in, said County Manager Marty Stamey.

If the county decides to accept an offer, there is a mandatory upset bid process,  giving other buyers a chance to make a higher offer.

There is an exception, however. The county can enter an exclusive deal with a non-profit wanting to buy the building, without going through the upset bid process, if the entity is proposing a use that serves the public good.  

But for now, the county soon will be seeking proposals from real estate firms to help it market and sell the properties. During a recent meeting, Haywood County commissioners discussed what they will look for in the prospective agencies.

“I want to see their track record,” Commissioner Kevin Ensley said.

Swanger agreed, adding that the county would want to discuss each agency’s marketing strategy and what fees the county would incur.

The county ended up with a collection of vacant office buildings after remodeling a vacant Walmart to house everything from the Department of Social Services and the Health Department to planning and erosion control.

The now-vacant buildings lie along the Old Asheville Highway.

Here’s the county’s “for sale” list:

• Former board of elections/planning department/erosion control/tourism agency: $1.15 million

• Former health department: $730,200

• Former DSS (old hospital): $1.25 million

• Former Haywood Mountain Home residence on Henson Drive: $269,700

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