How to Buy Property with Back Taxes [Find Delinquent Tax Property

Published on June 30, 2023

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How to Buy Property with Back Taxes [Find Delinquent Tax Property

How to Buy Property with Back Taxes [Find Delinquent Tax Property

If you're a real estate investor thinking of expanding your real estate portfolio, buying properties with back taxes could give you great opportunities. These properties are often overlooked and can potentially offer excellent value, but they also come with a unique set of challenges and potential pitfalls. 

To find delinquent tax property, you can buy data from LeadVine, go to your local tax office or county treasurer's website, check out local newspapers and tax sale brochures, and attend tax auctions.

This article is not only meant to tell you where to find delinquent tax leads. We'll also delve into what it means for a property to have back taxes, the implications of purchasing these properties, and how to navigate the complexities of this potential opportunity. 

What Does It Mean If a Property Has Delinquent Taxes

What Does It Mean If a Property Has Delinquent Taxes?

When a property has delinquent taxes, it means the property owner has not paid their tax bill in the timeframe required by the local government, which could include county, city, and sometimes state taxes. 

These taxes typically fund various public services, including schools, roads, and public safety. The exact period that must pass before taxes are considered delinquent varies from one state to another, but it's usually after the due date for the payment has passed without settlement.

When a property tax bill becomes delinquent, the governing body often places a tax lien on the property. This lien is a legal claim against the property for the unpaid amount. The property owner won't be able to sell or refinance the property without first clearing the tax debt.

If the taxes continue to go unpaid, the government may choose to sell the tax lien or the property itself, usually through an auction, to recover the unpaid taxes. This process is called a tax lien sale or a tax deed sale, depending on the state's laws. 

Tax Lien Sale vs. Tax Deed Sale

Both tax liens and tax deeds are instruments used by local governments to recover unpaid property taxes, but they operate differently and their implications for potential investors are distinct.

The government can sell a tax lien certificate to an investor at an auction. The investor doesn't become the owner of the property; instead, they buy the right to collect the debt and charge the homeowner with interest. 

If the homeowner fails to pay the tax lien within a certain period (known as the redemption period), the lien holder may have the right to foreclose on the property, potentially acquiring it for significantly less than its market value. 

Tax deed, on the other hand, means rather than selling a lien on the property, the government will sell the property itself to recover the unpaid taxes. 

The winning or highest bidder at the auction or tax deed sale becomes the new owner of the property, usually receiving the deed free and clear of any previous liens, though this can vary by jurisdiction. They must pay the winning bid amount accordingly.

It's important to note that properties sold at tax deed sales often come with their own set of challenges, such as needing significant repairs. 

The specifics of how tax liens and tax deeds work can vary widely from one jurisdiction to another, and local laws of one county may have a major impact on the risks and potential returns involved. Hence, you have to be cautious when you purchase the property when buying tax liens.

Pros of Buying Properties with Delinquent Taxes

Pros of Buying Properties with Delinquent Taxes

Purchasing properties with delinquent taxes can provide several investment opportunities for savvy real estate investors, as repeatedly mentioned in this blog. However, thorough due diligence and possibly professional advice are still recommended for anyone considering this type of investment.

If you’re sure you want to buy a property with delinquent taxes, check out its main benefits below.

Discounted Property Purchase Price

Properties with delinquent taxes can often be bought at a discount through tax lien certificate or tax deed sales, sometimes significantly below their market value. This provides an opportunity for high returns on investment.

Investing Portfolio Diversification

Purchasing a delinquent property may offer a way to diversify a real estate investment portfolio in every country, providing a different risk and return profile compared to more conventional real estate investments.

High-Interest Returns

If you plan to buy a tax lien rather than the properties themselves, you can potentially earn a high rate of return. The interest rate is usually set by law and can be significantly higher than the returns available from other investments.

Property Ownership

In a tax lien certificate scenario in tax lien investing, if the homeowner fails to repay the lien during the redemption period, the lien holder may have the opportunity to foreclose on the property and become the owner, potentially acquiring the property for a fraction of its worth. If you are a homeowner, it's time to do your due and pay unless you want your home to be foreclosed.

Market Competition

There's typically less competition when you buy every property with delinquent taxes compared to other real estate investments, as the process can be complex and requires specialized knowledge.

Cons of Buying Properties with Delinquent Taxes

Cons of Buying Properties with Delinquent Taxes

While purchasing properties with delinquent taxes can present lucrative opportunities, it also comes with its own set of challenges and risks. If you want to prepare yourself, below is a list of its potential risks.

Additional Property Liens or Debts

While most tax sales wipe out many other types of liens on a property of interest, they may not eliminate all of them according to local guidelines of every county. For example, federal tax liens or certain types of municipal liens might survive a tax sale. You must take the time to research the property, known as a title search, to understand the full liabilities associated with the property.

Property Condition

Properties with delinquent taxes are often neglected or abandoned as the homeowner already has another property. In other words, the delinquent property may require substantial repair and renovation costs. In many cases, it's not possible to fully inspect the property before purchasing a tax lien or tax deed, which adds to the risk. In this case, the investment is worthwhile but the investor must pay right for repairs.  

Redemption Rights

With tax lien sales, the original owner typically has a redemption period or legal right to obtain the property's title during which they can repay the tax debt or tax liability, plus interest, and keep the property from the person buying tax sales. That is, if they are able to get a personal loan or home equity loan. This can introduce uncertainty and delay for the investor, who may not ultimately end up acquiring the property and the tax obligation since it cannot be sold.

Legal Complexities

The rules around tax lien and tax deed sales that you need to follow vary widely by jurisdiction and can be quite complex. This makes it easy for less experienced investors to make costly mistakes when they invest in tax sale properties, and professional legal advice may be needed before the sale is complete.


The competition at auctions, variability of property conditions when homes are sold, and likelihood of homeowners paying off their debts make this investment method somewhat unpredictable. 

How to Buy Property with Delinquent Taxes

To help you find delinquent property deals, we’ve listed the top five sources as your starting point! Check them out below.


LeadVine has positioned itself as a premier data provider in real estate. They provide lists of properties with delinquent taxes to a range of real estate professionals and their leads undergo a manual screening process to guarantee accuracy.

The delinquent property owner data provided by LeadVine comes pre-processed for skip-tracing and mail merging. LeadVine imposes no limit on the volume of data sent to clients, enabling them to optimize deal closures and generate the best possible return on investment.

Moreover, LeadVine is an original data source, not a data reseller, which translates to higher accuracy in their absentee owner data. This ensures that real estate professionals get access to comprehensive and pertinent information.

Local tax office or county treasurer's website

The local tax office or county treasurer's website is directly involved in managing tax liens and tax deeds and is responsible for conducting sales. Therefore, the information they provide on homeowners who cannot pay is typically accurate and up-to-date, which isn't always the case with third-party websites or services.

In addition, these sources can provide official notice of upcoming tax sales, along with the rules and procedures governing them. This can include important details such as whether it's a tax lien or tax deed sale, the terms of the auction, and the rights of the original tax sale property owner.

Accessing this information from the local tax office or county treasurer's website is usually free, whereas third-party services might charge fees for their listings.

Tax Auction

Tax auctions are organized by the government body that holds the tax lien or deed, making it a direct source of delinquent properties when the homeowner fails to pay their property taxes. This eliminates the middleman, which can lead to cost savings for the buyer.

At a tax auction, properties often start at a price equal to the unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest. This significantly lowers the market value of the property, providing an opportunity for novice investors to acquire properties at a substantial discount.

Tax auctions can also offer a diverse range of properties, from residential to commercial, vacant land, and other properties where the homeowner files bankruptcy. Perfect for those who want to diversity their portfolio.

Local Newspaper

In many jurisdictions, it is a legal requirement for the local government to announce tax auctions in local newspapers. This makes local newspapers a reliable source of information about upcoming auctions.

Newspapers are also widely accessible and easy to obtain, making them a convenient source of information for potential investors. In many cases, newspapers also provide online versions of their print publications, increasing their reach and accessibility.

Moreover, newspaper listings usually provide detailed information about the properties up for auction, such as the address, size, zoning, and the amount of back taxes owed.

Tax Deed Sale Brochure

Tax sale brochures are typically prepared by the county or local tax office and often provide comprehensive information about the properties up for sale, including location, size, zoning, property type, and the amount of back taxes owed.

As these brochures come from the authorities organizing the tax sale, the information provided is usually reliable and up-to-date. T

Since these brochures are generally available well before the sale, it gives potential buyers enough time to do their research, visit the properties if possible, and prepare for the auction.

Tax Sale Bidding Strategies

When participating in a tax sale for delinquent real estate taxes, implementing a sound strategy is key to potential success. Here’s how you can land that delinquent property deal.

Research Thoroughly

Prior to the sale, a list of properties will usually be available. Take the time to review this list meticulously, researching each property's location, condition (to the best of your ability), neighborhood, market value, and any potential liens that might survive the tax sale. Use this information to decide which tax lien properties you're interested in and what you're willing to pay for them.

Attend Several Auctions Before Bidding

It's wise to attend a few auctions without bidding to get a feel for the process, understand the pace, see who the regular players are, and observe their strategies.

Understand the Auction Process

Familiarize yourself with the specifics of the auction process in the jurisdiction where the sale is taking place. 

Some jurisdictions use a bidding-down process, where the interest rate is bid down, and the winner is the one who accepts the lowest rate. Others use a premium bidding process, where the lien amount is fixed, but bidders compete on how much premium they're willing to pay on top of that amount. 

Set a Budget

Determine in advance what your total budget is and stick to it. This includes not only the potential cost of the tax lien or tax deed, but also any potential costs to repair or renovate the property, pay off surviving liens, or carry the property until it can be resold.

Consult Professionals

Consider consulting with a real estate attorney, a tax expert, or a seasoned investor, especially if you're new to tax sales. They can provide valuable guidance and help you avoid common pitfalls.

Summary: How to Buy Property with Back Taxes [Find Delinquent Tax Property]

Purchasing properties with delinquent property taxes each year may be worth the time of savvy investors. However, this venture is not without its risks, from the uncertainty of property conditions to the complexities of local tax laws.

If you want to get leads on delinquent properties fast, check out LeadVine. Meanwhile, if you want to diversify your portfolio and find other types of leads, reach out to us at Property Leads. We sell highly motivated leads exclusively, so you would have less to no competition.

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