July 13, 2024


Mad about real estate

How to Buy Tax Delinquent Property before the Auction

How to Buy Tax Delinquent Property before the Auction

Figuring out how to navigate the various county offices can be frustrating, but it is absolutely necessary to be successful in the tax delinquent investment business. When I began investing in tax delinquent properties, I was not only confused by what each department’s function was, but I was also unsure about how to use their services.

There are typically three to five departments that you will work with when investing in tax delinquent properties. Sometimes the names vary from county to county and state to state, but this overview should get you started.

1. Treasurer/Tax Collector’s Office – As the name suggests, this is the office that collects property taxes. Here you can find the amount of taxes owed on delinquent properties. They can also tell you when the next tax lien or tax deed sale will be. Additionally, some states allow over the counter purchases of tax liens and tax deeds following the auction. So you would do this here as well

2. Assessor – The county assessor determines property values for taxing purposes. Perhaps you have received a “Property Tax Valuation Notice” from this office giving the estimated value of your property. When real estate is sold, the assessor is notified of the sale price as well as some of the terms of the sale. This gives them the ability to assess the value of all property in the county.

You may also find that the assessor’s office has copies of all property maps or plat maps. While these maps are available from the records office, they are typically in large, non-user friendly formats. The assessor has maps in more convenient formats and sizes.

The assessor is my first stop when I’m looking at multiple properties. Getting copies of all the plat maps helps me easily locate the properties I am looking for.

3. Clerk/Recorder – Here you will find all recorded documents in the history of the county. Records such as ownership changes, deeds, agreements, mortgages, liens, and court judgments are kept here. Depending on the county, records may be stored in electronic format, paper or microfiche. You will find that most counties have converted from paper and microfiche to electronic format. The records are sorted chronologically by book and page providing the ability to do a detailed title search.

4. Mapping department – I primarily use the mapping department when I need a comprehensive county map with roads and reference points. These maps are typically available for a nominal fee of around $10. Additionally, if the assessor does not have copies of the plat maps, you can get them here.

5. Planning and Zoning – If you have questions about what is permitted to be built on a particular property, you will need to consult the planning and zoning department. You can also check for limitations of allowed uses. For instance, if you want to bid on a property with a house that is located on a busy intersection, you will want to see if the property is zoned for commercial or residential use. In the case of a vacant lot on the edge of town, you definitely want to confirm how the property is zoned. It may be possible to have the property rezoned to significantly increase the property’s value.

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