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How to Buy Property at a Tax Sale

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If you are searching for investment property, or just looking for a great deal on a house, consider purchasing property available through a tax sale. Tax sales are properties taken over by the city or municipality where they are located for back taxes owed. This usually happens when a bank foreclosure is imminent. The city, county or municipality puts a lien on a house when property taxes go unpaid for a set period of time. This varies by state or location. Tax sale auctions are normally conducted live, but online auctions are becoming more popular.

Contact your county tax office, or the county of the property you wish to purchase, for dates and times of the next tax sale. These tax sales are held at scheduled times throughout the year.

Visit the county tax office in person or online to pick up or download an auction application form and any other paperwork required to participate in the auction.

Determine what kind of auction you are participating in. While most auctions are standard, with the property going to the highest bidder, other auctions use random selection of all registered bidders to choose a winner. In the event of a tie between bidders, other methods come into play to determine the ultimate winner of the bid. Understanding these aspects of the auction will better prepare you for a successful bid.

Get a certification of funds available from your bank or any other financial documentation required by your specific auction. The tax office will provide you with all the information you need to bring with you to the auction after you register.

Attend the auction and go through the bidding process. If your bid is successful, you will have up to an hour after the auction closes to pay your bid in full and take possession of your property.

Tip

If the properties you are interested in are in different counties or jurisdictions, be sure to register in each county for the auction for each property. Registering for one auction does not mean you are registered for another one.

Warning

As in any investment, there are risks involved in tax sale properties. Be sure to do your own market research or talk to an experienced Realtor or real estate attorney for help before purchasing property at a tax sale.

About the Author

Patti Richards has been a writer since 1990. She writes children’s books and articles on parenting, women's health and education. Her credits include San Diego Family Magazine, Metro Parent Magazine, Boys' Quest Magazine and many others. Richards has a Bachelor of Science in English/secondary education from Welch College.

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