Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Step Seven to Building Your Profitable Tax Lien Portfolio

OK, so you’ve followed the first six steps to building your profitable tax lien portfolio and you’ve purchased your first tax lien certificate or tax deed. Now what do you do to insure that your investment is a profitable one? The seventh and final step to building your profitable tax lien or tax deed portfolio is protecting your investment and maximizing your return.

Depending on whether you are investing in liens or deeds and which state you are investing in, these steps may include; recording your lien or deed with the county clerk, paying subsequent taxes, Clearing the title to the property, and foreclosing the right to redeem a tax lien. Regardless of whether you purchased a tax lien, a tax deed, or a redeemable tax deed, the first thing that you need to do is record your lien or deed with the county clerk. Unless it is recorded, all you have is a worthless piece of paper. In some states this will done for you, and you will be charged a recording fee when you purchase your tax lien certificate or tax deed. In many states, it is the investors responsibility to do this and you are given a specific time frame in which it needs to be done. In some redeemable deed states, like Texas for example, the redemption period does not start until the deed is recorded, so you’ll want to do that right away. It is to your advantage to check out ahead of time what the procedures and laws are in your state for recording a tax lien or tax deed.

When you purchase a tax lien, some states will allow you to pay the current unpaid taxes (remember that the taxes you paid in order to get the lien are most likely last year’s taxes) and any subsequent taxes that the property owner doesn’t pay. I recommend that you pay the subsequent taxes (referred to as “subs”) , if your state allows it, as soon as possible. Some states will give you the maximum interest on your subs and some will only give you the interest that you bid at the sale, but most states that allow you to pay the subs also allow you to collect interest on them. This is one way that you can maximize your profit in a tax lien.

When you buy a tax deed, in most cases you will get a non-warranty deed. That means that there is not warranty as to the condition of the property or the condition of the title to the property. Basically you are buying the property without clear title and if you want to resell it, you will need to clear the title. Very few states issue a warranty deed at a tax sale. You can clear the title to the property in one of two ways. You can either hire an attorney to do a quiet title process or you could hire a title company to do a title certification process. Which one of these processes are more cost effective and quicker than the other will depend on the state. I have heard that in Texas it is easier and cheaper to use a title company and I know that here in Pennsylvania it can be more cost effective to use an attorney. I do recommend that if you use an attorney that you find one that does a lot of this type of work.

If you purchase a tax lien and it is not redeemed within the redemption period, than you may need to foreclose on the property in order to get paid. In my experience this happens very seldom, but when it does you will need a lawyer to handle this for you. It may seem like a simple process, but there many steps that have to be followed exactly or you could lose your right to the property. I also recommend that you only use a lawyer who specializes in tax lien foreclosures. Lawyers who specialize in this area are familiar with the difficulties that come up and know how to handle them. Because they are very familiar with the process they will be able to get through it faster than a lawyer who does not do many tax lien foreclosures.

This is the last article in this series. For more information about how you can build your own profitable tax lien or tax deed portfolio, I invite you to sign up for the free preview teleseminar to my new 8 week coaching course, "Build Your Profitable Tax Lien Portfolio." To register, go to http://tinyurl.com/f2hy4.

Tips for Bidding at a Tax Sale

Here are some tips from the Tax Lien Lady to help you increase your chances of being a successful bidder at a tax lien or tax deed auction.

Be one of the first to register for the sale and among the first to arrive at the sale. At very large tax sales it’s not easy for the tax collector to see the bidders in the back of the room. More bids are awarded to the buyers that are in front of the tax collector (or who ever is doing the auction). At some sales seating is assigned based on your bidder number, so register early for the sale. If seats aren't assigned, be sure that you arrive at the sale early so that you get a good seat. I like to get to a tax sale one hour before the sale begins, that way I know that I can get a good seat.

Make sure that you turn your cell phone off before the start of the sale. Every thing happens very fast once the sale begins and if you have to stop paying attention to what is going on in order to shut your phone off during the sale, you can easily loose tract of what property is being bid. Also do not talk to anyone while the sale is going on for the same reason. At one sale that I went to, someone came in late and sat down behind me and asked me what property they were on. Because I allowed myself to be distracted and answer his question, I missed the opportunity to bid on a property. Once the sale starts, you’ll have to pay strict attention and avoid distractions.

Know what your bottom line is on each property before you go to the sale. Have a spreadsheet with the maximum amount that you are willing to pay, or the lowest interest that you are willing to pay for each property, or have these numbers written on the tax sale list next to each property. You can easily loose tract of the auction if you have to figure out what you want to pay while the bidding is going on. Also keep a running total of what you are spending so that you don’t go over the total amount you can pay. If you do bid over the funds that you have available and you can’t pay for all of the liens or deeds that you were successful bidding on, you could be barred from attending any more tax sales in that county. It’s a good idea to take a calculator with you to the sale to help you keep tract of what you’re spending. Don’t forget to add in any other costs that you might have to pay at the sale; like recording fees, realty transfer fees, or auctioneer’s fees.

You also might want to have a highlighter and a pen with you. The highlighter is to highlight the properties that you want to bid on. The pen is for crossing out the properties that were paid before the sale and for changing the amounts on the properties where partial payments were made. This is another reason why you want to get to sale an hour early, you’ll need to get the final list and make all of these changes before the sale.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Step Six to Building Your Profitable Tax Lien Portfolio

This is the seventh article in a series of eight articles about how to build a profitable portfolio of tax lien certificates or tax deeds. If you missed the previous articles in this series, you can read them at www.taxlienconsulting.blogspot.com.

OK, so you’ve got the tax sale list and you’ve done your due diligence and you’ve made your preparations to go to the tax sale. You’ve registered for the sale, you have your paperwork in order and you’ve made arrangements to have the proper form of payment at the sale. Since most tax sales are auctions, the next step to building your profitable tax lien portfolio is to bid at the sale.

Before you bid at a tax sale you need to know what the bidding procedure is and what your strategy will be. You'll have to decide beforehand just how much you are willing to pay for each property that you want to bid on, or how low (in interest) you will bid. I suggest that you attend at least one tax sale before you bid so that you are aware of what is actually being bid and what the competition is like. It’s important to know exactly what you are bidding.

There are four basic types of bidding procedures that you will encounter at a tax sale. At tax lien sales, typically the interest is bid down, or the interest is not bid down and the price of the lien is bid up. This is referred to in the tax lien industry as “premium” or “overbid.” Different states may refer to it differently and they treat it differently. In some states the amount bid is only the premium or overbid amount, and the total price of the lien will be what was bid plus the lien amount. Other states will start the bidding at the lien amount so that the bid price includes the lien amount. Some states do not bid down the interest or bid up the price of the lien. They may use another bidding process in which the percent ownership in the property (should the property be foreclosed) is bid down. In this process it is the bidder willing to receive the lowest percent ownership in the property that wins the bid. Another bid process that is used in some states is random selection or a round robin bidding process. For both of these bidding procedures, the interest rate is not bid down and the price is not bid up; they remain constant. In counties that use the random selection process, a bid is randomly selected among the registered bidders at the sale. In counties that use the round robin procedure, the tax collector will go around the room in a specific order, offering the next tax lien to the next registered bidder in line. The bidder can either accept or refuse the lien; but if the lien is refused, another won’t be offered until his or her turn comes up again.

The procedure used for most deeds sales is the premium bid method. What differs among most tax deed states is the starting bid amount. In some states the starting bid will be the back taxes owed plus any penalties. Some states may start the bidding at a percentage of the assessed value of the property, and a couple of states will start the bidding at the market value of the property. You can see why it’s important to be familiar with the bidding process and what is being bid before you actually start bidding on tax sale properties! Also, you will want to be aware of other costs involved besides the amount you bid. When purchasing a tax deed, there will be other costs involved, not just the amount that you bid. There may be a realty transfer fee and a recording fee. Know what these fees are ahead of time and be prepared.

Due Diligence for Tax Sale Properties, or What You Need to Know Before You Bid

Due diligence is the most important step in the process of investing in tax liens or tax deeds. Whether you do this correctly or not could mean the difference between being extremely profitable or losing your investment. Due diligence for tax deed properties is a little more involved than due diligence for tax lien properties. When you purchase a tax lien certificate, you are not purchasing the property. You are paying the taxes on the property and recording a lien against it. When you purchase a tax deed, however, whether it’s a regular tax deed or a redeemable tax deed, you become the owner of the property and you will be held responsible for any other liens that survive the tax sale. You’ll also be liable for anything that happens on the property and any current taxes, association fees, or special assessments.

Even when you’re purchasing a tax lien, you still want to be sure that the property is worth a few times your initial investment. Even though you don’t own the property, if the property is not worth anything (if you purchase a tax lien on an unbuildable lot, for instance) then you are not likely to get paid. Don’t forget, you may have other costs besides what you pay at the tax sale for your certificate. You will have recording fees, subsequent tax payments (in states that allow you to pay subsequent taxes), and if the lien does not redeem – foreclosure costs.

For both tax lien and tax deed properties, you’ll want to see the tax assessment data for the properties in the sale. Sometimes this is included in the tax sale list that you get from the tax collector, but in most counties it is not. Most tax sale lists will only list the parcel number, a legal description of the property (usually just the block and lot), the name of the owner, and the amount due. The tax assessment data is the data that the county or municipality uses to determine the tax value of a property. It includes the size and type of the property and the assessed value, as well as the owner and property address. Sometimes it will even include the market value and/or last sale price of the property. To find out if you can get this information online, go to the county website and search for the tax assessor’s web page. You might find a link to it there. If it is not available online, you may have to go to the tax assessor’s office to have access to it.

An easy way to get all of this information without doing any work is to buy a detailed list from a tax sale list provider. Sometimes these lists can be expensive; you’ll have to weigh the cost of the list against the value of your time. If you don’t buy a detailed list, you’ll have to do the research yourself, and that could take a lot of your time. To help you to determine if you should purchase a detailed tax list or do the work yourself, you can read my article "When to Buy a Tax Sale List." You can find it at http://tinyurl.com/28ujj2.

Once you have determined what the property is worth, your due diligence for tax lien properties is almost complete. All you have to do now is look at the property. You’ll want to physically look at the property and take a look at the property on a tax map if you can get access to one. Sometimes you can get the tax maps online; other times you will have to go to the tax assessor’s or mapping office. When you look at the tax map you will be able to see if there are any easements or rights of way on the property, or if the property is land locked. These are all things that you want to avoid. Once you’ve done this, your due diligence for tax lien properties is complete; but if you’re going to a tax deed sale, your work is only half done.

The next step in doing due diligence for tax deeds is to search for any liens that survive the tax sale for the properties that you’ve determined you’re going to bid on. First you have to know what liens survive a tax sale. This will be different for different states, and some states can have different types of tax sales. In some tax sales certain liens will not survive the sale and in others they will. It’s very important to know which type of sale you are bidding at! You can either pay someone to do a title search for you, or if you know how, you can do this search yourself.

Even if you find no other liens that survive the tax sale on the properties that you are bidding on, your work is not over yet. You must also make sure that proper notice was given to any lien holders for those liens that do not survive the sale. The reason that these liens do not survive the tax sale is that they’ve been notified that the property is going to be sold for back taxes, and they have been given the opportunity to pay the taxes and keep the property from being sold. If a lien holder did not get properly notified, they could come back later and contest the sale. So the last thing that you want to do as part of your due diligence before you bid on a tax sale property is check to make sure that proper notification was given to all lien holders.

If you follow all the guidelines and steps in this article you will be able to minimize your risk in investing in tax lien certificates and tax deeds. Yes, there are risks involved in tax lien and tax deed investing, but if you know what the risks are you can avoid them. One way to avoid these risks is in doing proper due diligence on tax sale properties before you bid. But remember, even if you do due diligence on the properties before you bid on them at the sale, something could still go wrong; there are no absolute guarantees. But then nothing that is worthwhile in life is completely risk-free. Just remember the old adage, "Buyer Beware."

Monday, February 05, 2007

Step Five to Building Your Profitable Tax Lien Portfolio

This is the six article in a series of eight articles about how to build a profitable portfolio of tax lien certificates or tax deeds. If you missed the previous articles in this series you can read them at www.taxlienconsulting.blogspot.com.

Once you’ve done your due diligence on the tax sale properties that you intend to bid on it’s time to prepare to go to the tax sale. Preparing to go to the sale consists of registering to bid at the sale along with getting your paperwork and payment in order. In most states you need to register before the sale in order to bid. Depending on what state and county you are investing in, you may need to register as far as two weeks before the sale, or you may be able to register as close to the sale as a few minutes before it starts. I’ve even been to some sales in New Jersey where late comers are allowed to register and bid at the tax sale. Some municipalities do not require you to register ahead of time, only that you submit the proper paperwork if you are the successful bidder on a property.

Some counties will require a deposit in order to register. The deposit amount could be anywhere from $100.00 to a few thousand dollars (as in the case of many online tax sales). Large deposits are usually returned to the investor if nothing is purchased at the sale. Smaller deposits are sometimes returned and sometimes not returned, depending on the county. Nassau County, NY, for instance has a tax lien sale that typically is 3-4 days long. They have a registration fee of at least $100 for each day that you intend to bid and the registration fee is non-refundable.

You also need to make sure that you have the proper funds for payment before you go to the sale. For most tax sales, only certified funds are accepted. You need to figure out ahead of time how much money you think that you’ll need. This can be a little difficult because you don’t know what properties are going to be left in the sale and you don’t know if you will be the successful bidder on any of them. Sometimes you will be allowed time to go the bank and get payment after the sale. In this case you will be able to go to your bank and get the certified funds in the exact amount that you need. When you’re not allowed the time to go to the bank, you will have to have the certified funds, made out to the county tax collector, with you at the sale. In this case, come up with your best estimate of what you think is the most that you will spend and get certified checks made up in different denominations that total the amount you think that you'll need. This way if you have to wait for a refund check from the county for your change, at least it won’t be for a very large amount. Make sure you check with the tax collector a couple of days before the sale to find out what the acceptable forms of payment are and whether or not you will be allowed to go to the bank and get a check after the sale.

Another thing that you’ll have to have with you for the sale is the proper paper work. In some states you will have to fill this out when you register and in others you will need to bring it to the sale. Most tax collectors will require a W-9 form and a bidder information sheet. The W-9 form is a standard IRS form and you can get it online at the IRS web site. The bidder information sheet is usually filled out during registration and has your personal information, or your business information if you’re investing with a business name. This form is not always standardized and every county may have a different form. For most tax deed states there is another form that you will have to fill out if you are the successful bidder on a tax sale property and that is an affidavit of no taxes due for the county and/or state that you are purchasing a tax deed from. You see most counties will not sell a tax deed to someone who has unpaid taxes in their district. Sometimes a signed affidavit is all that is necessary, but in some states, as in Texas, the county clerk has to sign off on a statement verifying the fact that you do not owe any taxes.

This is a summary of step five to building a profitable tax lien or tax deed portfolio. In subsequent articles I will take each one of the remaining steps in depth to give you an idea of what each step involves. For more information about how you can build your own profitable tax lien or tax deed portfolio, go to http://www.taxlienlady.com/ProfitablePortfolio.html

When to Buy a Tax Sale List

One of the first things that you have to do to invest in tax lien certificates or tax deeds is to get the list of properties that are in the tax sale. Sometimes you can find this list online, on the tax collector’s website. In most counties the list has to be published in the local paper 2-4 weeks before the sale. In states where tax sales are held on the municipal level, most of these lists will be small (less than 100 properties) and easy to manage. But in large cities and in states where tax sales are held by the county, these lists can be quite large. Although you can get these lists for free, there are times when you will want to pay for a detailed tax sale list from a tax sale list provider.

The tax sale lists that you get from the municipality or county do not always have the information that you need. Often, they will not include the address or physical location of the property. Usually these lists will only list the tax ID or parcel number, block and lot, owner of record, and amount due on the properties in the tax sale. It will not tell you things that you need to know before bidding on the property like: the acreage, type of property, assessed value, last sale price, and whether or not there is a mortgage on the property. To find out this information you can either go to the tax collector’s or tax assessor’s office and look it up yourself, or you can buy a detailed tax sale list that provides all of the tax assessment information, including the physical address of the property.

For smaller tax sales you may want to buy a detailed list. You might think that since the list is small, you could save the money and look it up yourself. I have found that this process is time consuming and that for small lists I am better off buying the detailed list. It saves me a lot of time in my due diligence; I get all the information that I need; and I only have to go out and look at the properties. For larger lists, I would rather do my own research. Detailed tax sale lists that are over 500 properties can cost over $50 and lists that are over 1000 properties can cost over $100. Large counties and counties with big cities can have lists of a few thousand properties and that can cost a few hundred dollars. So how do you decide whether you should buy the detailed list or do the research yourself for these tax sale lists?

First remember that if the original tax sale list has 1000 properties, there will probably be only 500 or so properties left on the day of the sale. Since most tax sale list providers do not update the lists that they have for sale, you will have to purchase the detailed information on all 1000 properties even though you will probably only use half of the information. If you choose not to buy a detailed list, then you may be doing research on a lot of properties for nothing, since half of them will not be in the tax sale.

So here’s what I do. If there is an easy way to get the assessment information that I need, that is if it is available online, I wait until about 4 or 5 days before the sale, get an updated list from the tax collector, and then I get the assessment information on the properties. To make it even easier, I limit the properties that I research to only certain areas that I’m interested in investing in. I may limit it to only 3 or 4 townships in the county and to only certain types of properties. If the assessment information is not that readily available, I’ll buy the detailed list. Some list providers will allow you to filter the list by property type, thus you only buy information on the type of properties that you are interested in.

To find out more about the steps involved in building your profitable tax lien or tax deed portfolio, go to http://www.taxlienlady.com/ProfitablePortfolio.html.