This may not clearly fall in the category of “real estate investing”, however it is worth mentioning. Each state creates the system and rules for the lien or deed process so careful research is necessary. In general, property owners are notified regarding the amount of taxes owed and are given a period of time to pay. If the amount remains delinquent, the state will take one of the following paths (though some have created a hybrid):

Tax lien state

The county in which the property is located sells the lien certificate at a sale or auction. Some states sell the lien for the delinquent amount while others allow bidding to begin at that price. The purchaser of the tax lien collects interest (predetermined by the state) from the home owner on the amount that was paid for the tax lien. If the tax lien (with interest) goes unpaid during the redemption period, the investor may foreclose on the home. Unlike most foreclosures, when a tax lien is foreclosed on, all other liens and mortgages are abolished and the property would be owned “free and clear”. Typically the lender will pay off the tax lien to avoid losing their house and/or property.

Tax deed state

The county government sells the deed to the property at a public sale or auction. The benefit for investors is the ability to purchase property at discounted rates, often for the amount owed in taxes. When an account becomes delinquent, the property is listed at the tax assessor’s office, some are even online. Properties with homes are usually purchased by investors (often referred to as sharks) prior to foreclosure.

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