Monday, March 23, 2009

California Tax Deed Sales

I recently received an e-mail from a subscriber in California. He had paid to get a tax sale list for one of the counties in California. He got the list from the county, but it came too late for him to do his due diligence on any of the properties in the tax sale. His question to me was “where can I get the tax sale lists in time to do due diligence.” I happened to get his question as I was getting ready to go to San Francisco for personal reasons, but since I knew that there were a couple of tax sales coming up in that area, I decided to check out a couple of the California deed sales myself. In this article I’m going to let you in on the tools that I used to find out about tax sales in California.

First of all for those of you who are not familiar with tax sales in California, California is a deed state and many counties have online sales. Most of the online sales in California are conducted by Bid4Assets. You can sign up for free at to get notified of upcoming online tax sales. Many of these tax sales do require that you put down a large deposit ($5000) in order to bid, but they do give you access to the list of properties even if you are not a registered bidder.

Some counties do a great job of providing the list of properties in the sale and property information, and some counties do not. The information given can vary greatly by county. Some counties will only provide the tax number of the property, a legal description, (which is impossible to decipher unless you’re a surveyor), and the minimum bid amount. Other counties will give you the address of the property and tell you what type of property it is and even tell you about any other liens, thus saving you a lot of time in doing your due diligence. Some counties will even provide pictures of the properties.

So what do you do when you find that the list only has minimal information and does not even give you the property address? There are two things that you can do when you find that the list that you get for free online does not supply all the information that you need. The first option is free, but will cost you your time, and is a bit tedious. Usually there is a link provided on the Bid4Assets web site to look up the assessment information. But you have to type the property ID number in for each property on the list and look each one up separately, and then transfer the information to a spreadsheet in order to keep track of it. I tried this for one of the counties and gave up after it took me an hour to research about 15 properties.

The second option will cost you some money but save you a lot of time. You can go to and purchase a detailed list, which most of the time will have all the information you need for the tax sale properties. There is one more option that I haven’t tried yet, but it may work for tax sales that are not held online. You could call the County Treasurer and ask if they have the information available either online or on a CD, and ask them if it includes the property owner’s name, and the address of the property. Those are the most important thinks that you need in order to do your due diligence.

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