Buying tax delinquent property at tax sale is a profitable land buying method. However, buyers sometimes pay too much for the property or buy real estate that has serious title problems. Often the purchased property is not as expected, it may be inaccessible, a steep hillside, desert or undesirable in some other way. Follow the steps below to avoid these problems.
Property is sold by the county for delinquent taxes. It often takes five years of delinquencies before the property is sold. Some states sell tax certificates. In this case you are buying the tax debt from the county not the property. We will focus on states that conduct auctions.
After meeting the requirement (number of years of delinquent taxes) the auction is held. Like any auction, the property is sold to the highest bidder. It is usually held annually at the local courthouse.
Property owners can redeem the property anytime before the actual auction. This means that the preparation and research I will describe below may be wasted if the property is redeemed before the sale.
Before going through the steps I want to share a great strategy to buy tax delinquent land. Contact the owner before the sale and offer to buy for a small amount. Then pay the taxes and you will own the property before the sale. Many owners will jump at the chance as they know they are about to lose the property.
This may not always be to the advantage of the seller as they are entitled to any proceeds from the auction above what is owed in delinquent taxes.
Always have the title of the property checked before making a bid. This takes preparation and you will need to contact a title company before the auction. My title company is often contacted the day before the sale to check the title. That is not enough time to do a title search.
Many people buy property at the auction, discovering later there are title problems. The land may have loans, liens or other title problems. Don’t buy without knowing the title condition.
Visit the property before the tax sale. Know what you are buying. There may be a reason the property is going to tax sale other than the owner can’t afford the taxes. The owner may know that the property has no legal access, is a steep mountain, or a sand dune.
Know the approximate land value of any property you want. It is easy to pay more than the property is worth at an auction.
I have seen property sell at a tax deed auction for 2 or 3 times what adjoining property is listed for by a realtor. The listed property is not only cheaper but you also receive clear title, and have a realtor to do much of the work and show you the property.
Why buy real estate with title problems if you can buy property through a realtor cheaper and without title problems?
Most importantly avoid auction fever. Auctions are exciting and it becomes a competition to win. Many bidders do it for fun with no idea what they are buying. Focus on a couple of properties and don’t pay more than they are worth.
Tax auctions have become so popular that owners are now buying property and intentionally not paying the taxes. When the real estate is sold at auction they receive any money above the delinquent taxes. If the property sells for a good price they clear a nice profit.
A Tax Deed Sale can be a great opportunity to get property at a great price but only if you prepare by doing your research before the auction.
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