Recently I sent an e-mail out to my subscribers asking them some questions to find out what it is that most people want to know about tax lien investing. I got a lot of good questions and I won’t be able to answer them all in this article, but I want to try to answer those that were asked most often that weren’t answered in my new free video course.
I especially like to answer questions that start out with the words “How do I…” or “How can I...” This type of questions shows me that someone is really interested and is ready to take action. So lets answer some of these types of questions that are not answered in my video series. So here are some frequently asked questions about tax lien investing.
Q1: How can I buy tax liens or tax deeds without going to the auction?
A: In most states you have to attend the auction in order to bid, or have a representative there to bid on your behalf. But there are 2 ways that you can purchase a tax lien or deed without physically going to the sale. A few states do have online auctions, but not all counties in these states conduct their auctions online. Usually just the larger counties do. Many counties in Florida, California, and Arizona have online tax sales. And I know that some counties in Colorado and Illinois have online tax sales as well. Another way that investors have bought tax lien and tax deeds without going to the sale, is to bid on left-over liens, this can usually be done through the mail. The only problem is that as tax lien and tax deed investing become more popular, there are less and less good properties left-over after the tax sale.
Q2: I don’t live in the US, can I still invest in Tax Liens or Tax Deeds?
A: Yes, in most states you can invest in tax liens and tax deeds even if you are not a US citizen and do not live in the US. There are a couple of states that you have to be a resident of the state to invest, but these are not the most popular tax lien states and they don’t have online sales. All you have to do in order to purchase a tax lien is to fill out a tax form called a W-8BEN form. In order to complete this form you will also need to apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) if you are bidding in your own name. If you are bidding using a business name, you must apply for a Employer Identification Number (EIN). This is only for tax liens. You do not have to do this to participate in a tax deed sale.
Q3: So how much money do you need to get started with tax lien investing?
A: The beauty of tax lien investing as opposed to tax deed investing and other types of real estate investing, you can start with a very small investment. The first very profitable tax lien that I purchased started with an initial investment of only a couple of hundred dollars, on a small sewer lien. Then I was able to pay the subsequent sewer taxes the next couple of years and instead of trying to foreclose I just kept paying the subsequent taxes. After a couple of years, the homeowner moved out of state and stopped paying the taxes on the property, so then I got to pay even bigger payments $5000 over the next couple of years. The lien finally redeemed and I collected 18% per annum on most of my investment plus penalties.
Q4: How often do you acquire the property with tax liens?
A: In the state of NJ where I invest, very, very seldom do you get to foreclose on the property. If you are interested in owning property than tax deed investing or redeemable tax deed investing is the way to go. Only about 1% of tax liens will not redeem and of those properties, once you start the foreclosure process about 80% will redeem sometime during the foreclosure process. I’ve been investing for about 6 or seven years and I haven’t foreclosed on a property yet. I do have a couple of liens that I could start foreclosure on right now, but I know that when I do, they will redeem, so I just let them go.
I know some investor who have foreclosed on a couple of properties, but either it is not recent – we’re talking a few years ago when property values were not what they are today and it was much harder to get a loan, or they have a really huge portfolio with thousands of liens.
Q6: Are there risks involved in this type of investing? What are they?
A: Yes, there are risks involved and that’s what the gurus leave out, they make it sound so easy. They like to use the term “Government Guaranteed” to make people think that they can’t go wrong with tax lien investing, that the government guarantees that they’ll get paid on a tax lien. That’s really not true, what they mean by “government Guaranteed” is that there are laws that protect the investor but you not guaranteed to get paid. The guarantee is the property. Tax Liens are guaranteed by the property that you have a lien on, so if you buy a tax lien on a worthless piece of property, then you made a poor investment and it is possible that you could loose your money. Yes, there is risk involved, but that risk is minimized by doing your due diligence on the property before you purchase the lien, just like you would do due diligence on property before giving someone a loan against it. If you do your due diligence properly than tax lien investing is a very safe investment because it’s secured by something tangible, not just a piece of paper.
One of the things that I do in my courses, John, is teach people how to do due diligence for tax sale properties so that they can totally reduce the risk involved with tax lien investing.
Q7: Can you invest in tax liens and tax deeds in your IRA?
A: We all want to keep more of those profits for ourselves and not give half of it away to Uncle Sam. The good news is that you can use money in your IRA or Roth IRA to invest in tax lien certificates or tax deeds, but only if it’s a true self-directed IRA. With a self-directed IRA, your profits can grow tax-differed, and with a Roth IRA, your profits can be totally tax-free.
In my courses I have 2 audios from different experts from 2 different self-directed IRA companies that explain how to do this.