Sheriff’s Sales Go Digital in the State of Ohio

New ‘private selling officers’ take REO sales online across the state

Contained among the many provisions of Ohio House Bill 390, effective since September 2016, is a unique alternative to traditional real estate-owned (REO) sales conducted by Sheriff’s offices across the state of Ohio. The new alternative to taking foreclosed properties to sale is includes the online auction of these REO properties conducted by Private Selling Officers (“PSOs”).

The process for purchasing REO property has been simplified, in many ways, by this new alternative. A purchaser, whether a buyback or third-party purchaser, no longer needs to be present at the moment a Sheriff’s Sale is held. Now, the purchaser can bid from their home, their place of work, even on vacation.  Still, the sale need not be done online. The law allows the auction to be conducted in-person and at the property, allowing for a more inclusive purchasing experience.

Properties sold in this manner are advertised in a more diverse, non-traditional manner. While newspaper advertisements and property signs are still used, this takes REO advertisement into the 21st century in Ohio. Properties are additionally marketed for sale on the internet, including social media.  Realtors are also involved in the marketing process. The property can be listed with a multiple listing service (MLS) to include realtors, and holding open houses help provide realtors a chance to show the property to potential buyers in a more traditional, non-REO style purchase.

At the center of this new style of REO sale is the Private Selling Officer (PSO). A PSO is defined as a resident of the state licensed as an auctioneer and a real estate broker or salesperson. The PSO, in essence, performs a similar process to what the County Sheriff performs, but by wholly different means. At its most basic, the PSO sets the time and date for sale, conducts the sale, and conveys the property to the purchaser by way of a Private Selling Officer’s Deed. The broad view of the PSO looks very similar to the Sheriff, but it’s in the minutiae where the differences become apparent, especially with the use of technology that hasn’t been used in REO sales in the state.

The online auction portion of this new law is perhaps the most intriguing part of this development.  Purchasers may visit the auction website and make bids. The auction is open for a week; if a sale is not completed, the auction must be opened for a second week shortly thereafter. This is an exciting development for us here in Ohio. Being present (at least by proxy) was necessary to purchase a property by Sheriff’s sale. This meant cost in terms of time spent traveling, or hiring a party to bid. Now, remote bids remove that cost.

This moves us to the purpose behind this development – reducing cost and shortening timelines.   Cost reduction is simple: less travel, more time to spend on other activities. But shortening timelines might be a greater efficiency to be gained. For one, the hope is that a reduced burden on Sheriffs will allow all properties, whether by Sheriff’s Sale or PSO Auction, are now able to be handled more efficiently and quickly.  Increasing the number of parties working to get these properties to sale should only improve timelines, and provide each property’s sale with more attention and care.

This development of REO sales is still in it nascent stages. The biggest step for PSO Auctions to become ingrained as a more flexible alternative to Sheriff’s Sales in Ohio is buying in. Whether by law firms, courts, counties, title agencies, realtors, or their clients, buying in is essential for this system to thrive. In its first year of being law, the buy in has been slow, but meaningful. In an area of law that is often stuck in the past and tied to traditions, it has been refreshing to see parties willing to embrace a new system that leverages technology and flexibility. With time and effort, this could well be the REO law development of this generation in Ohio.

About the Author

Ethan Clunk, Esq. is an attorney with Ohio and Kentucky-based default services law firm Clunk, Paisley, Hoose, Co. Ethan can be reached at The JDC Family of Companies includes the law firm of Clunk, Paisley, Hoose Co., LPA and Omega Title Agency, LLC, both of which serve Ohio and Kentucky. Learn more online at

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