Researching For Delinquent Tax Sales

You may receive a notice of a sale of properties delinquent for unpaid taxes in a few different ways. You may find the listing in the newspaper, as many counties are required to list the properties one or more times. Or you might be on a mailing list from the County Treasurer or State Tax Collector. You could also have downloaded a list from the internet. Whatever the case, there are a few things you need to do before you head off to the auction, some of which should be done at home.

First, if the notice does not have the properties listed in numerical order you should number them yourself starting at number one. Most counties will have their lists numbered by parcel number but if it is not in numerical order it is best to do so. Secondly, you want to highlight the properties located in subdivisions as this will help you in your research later. This information should be found on the list in the description of the property.

Your first stop when doing research should be the county courthouse in the county in which the sale is being held. In the courthouse you should go directly to the office responsible for holding the sale. While there, you want to get the updated listing of what properties will be sold. The resason for this is that some properties may be redeemed and you would be wasting time researching and inspecting properties you have no chance in buying.

Next you need to find the office that has plat maps for the county. A plat map is a map drawn to scale of all pieces of property in a county or city showing the properties broken down into blocks with streets and alleys. It is further broken down into lots within a subdivision. Usually property descriptions include the lot and parcel numbers. Property descriptions generally don’t include street addresses so you will need this information to find the street address. It is possible to download many plat maps from the internet, so visit the countie’s website to see if the maps are there. You will need to become familiar with the subdivisions so you will know what part of town to be in. Another type of map is the county grid map which will show where each addition or in the case in my county the “districts” are.

After you obtain the said maps you are ready to visit the property. It is best to lay out some kind of a route so you are not driving from one end of town to the next and then back again. This would waste much time and gas and be counterproductive. Here is where a GPS can become a very valuable tool as many will set up the shortest route for you. When visiting the property you should take a digital camera along and get pictures because once you visit more than a few you might forget what another one was like.

After you have visited the properties you should return to the courthouse. By now, your list should be shorter, as some properties will not be worth bidding on due to various reasons which you have determined. At the courthouse you want to check the tax assessment rolls to see who was the last to pay taxes on the property because it may be in your interest to contact the owner prior to the sell to make an offer. Also you should check the county recorders office and ask to check the deed books which will give you a history of the property such as how much was paid for the property and when. This information can help you if you decide to sell the property at a later date. Another book you will want to look at is the lien book which will list any liens held against a property either by the IRS or other agencies.

Now you are ready to go home once again and prepare for the sale. Use all the information you have and decide which properties you want to bid on and how much.


Please understand that I am not an attorney or accountant. If you need legal or financial advice please retain the services of a competent professional.