A decision in East Grand Forks aims to ease the sale of city-owned residential lots.

City Council members voted unanimously on Tuesday, Nov. 5, to eliminate a $3,000 Realtor surcharge on those lots, of which it has about 50 valued at approximately $40,000 apiece.

The city acquired those lots after the 1997 flood that devastated the Grand Cities and has been steadily selling them off in the two-plus decades since. That surcharge is designed to pay for a real estate agent to market the city’s lots, but city staff said it effectively raised the price of each parcel by $3,000 and created a disincentive for those agents to work with the city to sell those lots.

“Transferring the Realtor commission from the seller to the buyer has had the unfortunate effect of making the city lots less attractive, which conflicts with the city’s desire to sell the lots,” Economic Development Director Paul Gorte wrote to council members.

Years ago, East Grand Forks offered a $10,000 incentive for people to buy one of the city’s residential lots and stay in it for several years. That amount went down to $5,000 and the incentives have since been done away with entirely, but Gorte said there are still other financial incentives for potential East Grand Forks home buyers.

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The city sells about 10 such lots each year, staff said. Most are located on East Grand Forks’ north side.