I have bought and sold land from delinquent tax sales for many years in many states but I so called “cut my teeth” in my home state of West Virginia. This article will cover land sales in West Virginia held by the State Auditors office. Usually the State Land Sale is the second auction in which the property is listed. The first time the land is listed in a tax lien sale held by each County Sheriff once a year. All property not sold to individuals at the County Sale is sold to the state and is auctioned off after 18 months.

The West Virginia State Auditor, currently Glen B. Gainer III, serves as the Commissioner of Delinquent and Nonentered Lands. The County Collections Division of the State Auditors Office has the primary function of returning Delinquent and Nonentered Lands to private ownership. This is accomplished by redemption of property or by selling the property at auction. These auctions could include rights to oil and gas, minerals and timber or land. In FY 2006, 2,757 tracts or lots were certified by the Auditors Office. These properties were ones that received no bid at the county level. At the state level bids on the properties start out as little as $1 per tract. (Hence the title of this article)

Preparation for the Auction

There are likely thousands of dollars in property to be auctioned in each of the 55 counties in West Virginia. But you are not limited to just one county. Anyone can bid on delinquent property in any county except:

  • Deputy Land Commissioners or their deputies.
  • County Clerks or their deputies.
  • Sheriffs or their deputies.
  • County Commissioners or deputies.
  • Those with legal interest in the sale of the property.

You must know the county of the property for which you are bidding. It is beneficial to research the property prior to the sale so you know what you are getting. The best way to do this is to research the deed. This can be done at the County Clerks Office.

You should also know the status of the property you would like to bid on. If the land has been in a prior State Land Sale you may bid through the Deputy Land Commissioner’s Office only if the land has a “NO BID” status or in some cases a status of “SOLD-did not follow through”. Forms for bidding on these properties can be found on the State Auditors  website.

The Sale Process

The Sheriff’s Office for the county in which the land is located holds a tax sale on delinquent properties that were delinquent as of September 1st. Those properties are listed in the local newspaper three times prior to the sale. Properties not sold at the county level are turned over to the State Auditor. The results of this sale will be listed in the newspaper and properties turned over to the Auditor are normally listed as sold to the State. All properties sold to the state are held for 18 months and then are included in the State Land Sale. Make sure you understand what the description of the property is before bidding on it at the State Sale. You may be bidding on mineral rights and many times you are bidding on only a fraction of the interest.

After the Sale

After you submit the winning bid you must wait for an approval letter. Once you receive the approval letter you have 45 days to submit a typed list of those with the right to redeem such as the owner, their heirs, or lien holders, to the Deputy Land Commissioner. It is advised that you hire an attorney to do all searches and title work. If you miss the deadline your winning bid is lost and do not retain rights to the property. 

The following is a list of websites that will help you in your search for land sales and property in West Virginia.

State Auditors Website

Current Land Sale Listings

Database of Properties Delinquent for Taxes