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Tax Sales and Abandoned Properties: Legal Tips for Buyers

Tax sales and abandoned properties can present unique opportunities for buyers looking to invest in real estate. These properties are often sold at a fraction of their market value, making them attractive options for those seeking a bargain. However, navigating the legal aspects of purchasing tax sale properties can be complex and requires careful consideration. In this article, we will explore some important legal tips for buyers interested in tax sales and abandoned properties.

Understanding Tax Sales

Tax sales occur when a property owner fails to pay their property taxes. In order to recoup the unpaid taxes, the government may hold a tax sale, where the property is auctioned off to the highest bidder. The winning bidder typically receives a tax lien certificate, which gives them the right to collect the unpaid taxes plus interest from the property owner. If the property owner fails to pay the debt within a specified period of time, the tax lien holder may have the right to foreclose on the property.

It is important for buyers to understand the process and potential risks associated with tax sales. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Research the laws and regulations governing tax sales in your jurisdiction. Each state or province may have different rules and procedures for conducting tax sales.
  • Attend tax sales in person or online to observe the process and gain familiarity with how auctions are conducted.
  • Thoroughly research the properties you are interested in before bidding. This includes conducting a title search, inspecting the property, and assessing its market value.
  • Be prepared to pay for the property in full at the time of the auction. Most tax sales require immediate payment.
  • Understand the redemption period, which is the timeframe in which the property owner can reclaim the property by paying off the tax debt. If the property is redeemed, you may be entitled to a refund of your investment plus interest.
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Dealing with Abandoned Properties

Abandoned properties are another type of real estate that can be purchased at a discount. These properties are typically vacant and may be in a state of disrepair. However, they can offer significant potential for buyers willing to invest time and money into their rehabilitation.

When considering purchasing an abandoned property, it is important to be aware of the legal issues that may arise. Here are some tips for buyers:

  • Research the local laws and regulations regarding abandoned properties. Some jurisdictions have specific procedures for acquiring and rehabilitating these properties.
  • Consult with a real estate attorney to ensure that you understand your rights and obligations as a buyer of an abandoned property.
  • Inspect the property thoroughly to assess its condition and estimate the cost of repairs. Consider hiring a professional inspector or contractor to provide an expert opinion.
  • Check for any outstanding liens or encumbrances on the property. These can affect your ability to obtain clear title.
  • Consider the potential risks and challenges associated with rehabilitating an abandoned property, such as obtaining permits, dealing with code violations, and securing financing.

Due Diligence and Title Research

Performing due diligence and conducting thorough title research is crucial when purchasing tax sale or abandoned properties. This process involves investigating the property’s history, ownership, and any potential legal issues that may affect its title. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Obtain a copy of the property’s legal description and tax identification number.
  • Conduct a title search to identify any liens, mortgages, or other encumbrances on the property.
  • Review the property’s chain of title to ensure that there are no gaps or irregularities in ownership.
  • Check for any outstanding judgments or lawsuits involving the property.
  • Consider purchasing title insurance to protect yourself against any unforeseen title issues.
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It is important to note that title research can be a complex and time-consuming process. If you are unfamiliar with the process or unsure of how to proceed, it is recommended to seek the assistance of a qualified real estate attorney or title company.

Financing and Insurance Considerations

Financing and insurance can be challenging when purchasing tax sale or abandoned properties. Traditional lenders may be hesitant to provide financing for these types of properties due to their unique risks and uncertainties. However, there are alternative financing options available, such as hard money loans or private lenders.

When it comes to insurance, it is important to ensure that the property is adequately covered. Abandoned properties may be more susceptible to damage or vandalism, so it is crucial to have appropriate insurance coverage in place. Some insurance companies may offer specialized policies for vacant or distressed properties.


Purchasing tax sale and abandoned properties can be a lucrative investment strategy, but it requires careful consideration of the legal aspects involved. By understanding the tax sale process, conducting thorough due diligence, and seeking professional advice when needed, buyers can navigate the complexities of these types of real estate transactions with confidence. Remember to research the laws and regulations in your jurisdiction, inspect properties thoroughly, and be prepared for potential challenges along the way. With the right approach and proper legal guidance, buyers can take advantage of the opportunities presented by tax sales and abandoned properties.

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