Tax Deed Sales – The Opportunity

Tax Deed Sales – The Opportunity


As I discussed in my article “Tax Deed Sales – The ‘Catch'”, tax deed sales are largely a non-opportunity in my opinion.

There are several reasons for this, but the main reason is that other investors will want the same bargain property you want, and will bid the price up way past “bargain” levels in almost every instance.

Tax sale markets are usually very “efficient” – meaning that bargains do not go unnoticed by the public.  However, as usual, if you look a little below the surface, you will find opportunities even in the tax deed sale arena.

Luck-Based Opportunities

Most tax deed sale success stories that you’ll hear, if true, are the result of luck.

While the overwhelming majority of “cheap properties” at tax deed sales are bid up to beyond bargain prices, there are always rare instances where a bargain slips through.  Perhaps:

  • A particular sale, for some reason, didn’t attract as many investors as usual
  • All the other investors somehow missed a bargain property that you identified, and you were the only bidder
  • The crowd at the sale was small and everyone ran out of money before all the properties were sold

As you can see though, there’s nothing you can do to increase the chances of these things happening.  You’ll just have to attend every sale you can, prepared to bid, and wait for one of these very rare situations to occur.

Personally, I like to control my destiny a BIT more than this, and I don’t like spinning my wheels waiting for luck to bless me with a deal.

Specialty Opportunities

Here are several ways to potentially “make your own luck” at tax deed sales, and get valuable properties for the minimum bid (or close to it).  Note that most of these properties come to light only through very careful examination of the tax deed sale list.  Look up each and every property even if it appears to be worthless at first glance, or is available for very little money.

  • Concentrate on “nuisance” properties.  These are properties that don’t have much value on their own, but may prevent others from enjoying their properties to the fullest. Examples include railroad easements that go through valuable commercial properties, lots that contain “part” of a house (the homeowner still owns the lot with “most” of the house), and any other property that could create a problem for another property owner.
  • Buy “unusual” properties – for example, a man purchased an undeveloped tract for $3900 at tax sale, which was needed later for flood control by the county.  The county ended up having to pay over $300,000+ to buy the property (see the story here).  This is the type of property that would almost surely be available for the minimum at the tax sale.
  • Look at land carefully – While most land at tax deed sales is worth very little, or even worthless, occasionally some quite valuable pieces of land will be offered without bid.  This is because most raw land does not have a street address, only a legal description and parcel number.  This makes it more difficult to identify – therefore the majority of investors skip it.
  • Billboards and Cell Towers – It’s worthwhile to visit all land, even if the land doesn’t appear valuable at first glance.  This is because the land may contain a billboard, cell tower or other structure which you will be able to collect rents from if you successfully purchase.  These rents can be significant, and require little or no “landlording” as a rental property would.

Bottom line – concentrate most of your effort on the non-obvious properties listed for the tax deed sale.  You may want to be prepared to buy a single family home or other improved property in the rare event that it goes unnoticed by other investors.

But spend more time than the other investors on property investigation, and you will likely find regular buying opportunities at minimum bid – for properties that can be even more valuable than the houses everyone else is fighting over!

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

tina July 24, 2012 at 12:42 am

What is the best way to obtain a list of tax deed sales in Ohio?


admin July 24, 2012 at 3:51 am

They are lumped in with sheriff sales (mortgage foreclosures). So find those lists and you’ll be good to go. They only occur in smaller counties. Larger counties sell their certificates in bulk to institutions.


reggie October 1, 2012 at 1:32 pm

how can i get a tax sale list for salina,KS


admin October 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Tax sale lists go by county in most states including Kansas (NJ is a notable exception).

Go to the county website and find the treasurer’s page. If they don’t have information there, call.


Terrence November 8, 2012 at 2:41 am

DO you know if Indiana has a resale tax deed program? I mean if there are inventories of un-bought tax liens does Indiana ever take title and then resale the deed? If so do some counties offer contracts to buy these deeds? I know Indiana is a lien state but what happens if they have a surplus of indiana liens?


admin November 8, 2012 at 3:07 am

I wrote a whole series on this. Check it out at


Judith Sladden December 24, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Thanks or honest,clear information.


Antuan Roberts April 25, 2013 at 5:26 am

Hello where can I get a Tax Deed list? and how do I obtain a OTC (over the counter) property list. I live in Los Angeles California.


admin April 28, 2013 at 7:36 am

Both from the county tax collector.


Val Wilkerson May 25, 2013 at 4:36 pm

If I was to bid on a tax sale property and it had a lean or a loan on it, would I have to pay this off. Or at these sales, are they forgiven. And all I need to do is pay the taxes and admimastration fees?


admin May 28, 2013 at 9:47 am

If you bid at a sale, in most areas you would not have to pay that off, they are eliminated if you get the property. You have to pay the taxes and admin fees, yes, but usually there is bidding or waiting involved during which the owner can pay you off. This is the big downside, the competition at the sale.

That’s why you should work with the owner beforehand. Most properties that are about to be lost to tax sale don’t have mortgages, and there are many low-cost and no-cost ways to search for them.


Val Wilkerson May 29, 2013 at 2:36 am

If I was to bid on a tax sale property and it had a lean or a loan on it, would I have to pay this off. Or at these sales, are they forgiven. And all I need to do is pay the taxes and admimastration fees? (Thank you for the information.) I also was wondering if you could tell me about the farmland assessment act or green belt I believe! If I bid on 5 acher’s of land or less,can it have a effect on what it could cost me? I know that there is or could be some type of rollback tax on some properties. Just can’t figure out how this works. Thank you.


ana mercado May 28, 2013 at 1:35 pm

I interested in buy house


karena November 13, 2013 at 2:30 am

if i made arrangements on a home that’s in tax forclosuer to pay past due taxes on a home, how soon will the property go into my name.


admin November 18, 2013 at 6:10 am

It depends state by state – it’s not “making arrangements” though – it’s attending a formal auction or sale. Don’t just go pay someone’s taxes!


gailjoha February 26, 2015 at 9:22 am

Could a taxes sale take place if the second person with interest in the propery had no knowledge of the tax deed transfer?


admin March 15, 2015 at 2:08 am

Yes, tax sales generally proceed after giving notice to the mailing address of record for the property.

Recent court cases have overturned tax sales where ACTUAL notice was not made successfully to the owner, and the notice just went to the mailing address. But you’d have to discuss with a lawyer whether that may be a factor in the situation you’re looking at.


Steve West November 5, 2015 at 4:44 pm

I been paying taxes on a place for over 30 years and I don’t have a deed for this place. What can I do to buy the taxes on the place that I have been paying on for all the years? Kentucky is the state


admin December 10, 2015 at 7:13 am

At this point you could probably use a process called adverse possession to get the property – see a lawyer about this


john ll E shanklin August 30, 2016 at 7:55 pm

How can I obtain a list of tax liens and tax deeds in Houston,tx ?


admin February 2, 2017 at 10:44 am

Google Harris County Tax Deed Sale, they have it every first Tuesday of the month. No Tax Liens.


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