Thursday, June 3, 2010

Buying properties at tax sales

A few items have popped up on the web recently about buying tax lien property in Georgia. The message board of shows this unfair but entertaining exchange on May 15:
Q: I live in Ga. Does anyone know the process for acquiring tax lien property? The vacant lot next to me is going up for auction the first week in May because the owner has not paid his property taxes. Is it true that if I win the property through the bidding process, that the owner has at least a year in order to try and get the property returned to him?

A 1: loslunas87031 says:

have you ever been to a tax auction ? Its a zoo of idiots who watch too many late night tv infomercials, run the bids past market value and then realize they do not automatically own the property and the owner has up to several years to pay the tax and recover it.

A2: acermill says:

Yes, it is quite true. Georgia offers a one year redemption period for the delinquent taxpayer after the tax lien sale/auction. The delinquent payer need only pay the tax delinquent, plus a 20% penalty, and the ownership reverts to the original owner.

That conversation highlights the risks of buying properties at tax sale, but on May 22, described the potential benefits:
If you are interested in either owning the property or getting a very good return on your investment and you live in or near a redeemable deed state, than you should consider investing in redeemable deeds. Redeemable deeds are kind of in-between tax liens and tax deeds. You purchase the tax deed at the sale, but there is a redemption period in which the previous owner can come back and redeem the deed from you. They have to pay a pretty hefty penalty in most redeemable deed states in order to do so, and the penalty is on the total amount that you bid at the sale. In Texas the penalty is 25% and in Georgia it’s 20%. Not a bad rate of return!

It should be kept in mind that whether it’s a good or bad investment, ultimately tax sales are unfortunate events. They signify that for whatever reason, somebody is in jeopardy of losing their own property, investment, or even their own home because they couldn’t pay the taxes.

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