What Are Tax Lien Certificates and How to Buy Them
A tax lien certificate is a document that proves that you have paid a property owner’s delinquent taxes. The certificate gives you the legal right to collect unpaid taxes, plus interest and penalties, from the property owner. Tax lien certificates are typically sold at auction by the government agency responsible for collecting taxes in the jurisdiction where the property is located.
How to Buy a Tax Lien Certificate
- Research the market. Unless you’re an experienced investor, you should stick to investing in tax liens in your backyard. Familiarity with local market conditions will give you a big advantage when bidding on a tax lien certificate.
- Find out when and where tax lien certificates are auctioned off. This information is typically available on the website of the county or municipality where the property is located. States also set rules about when and how often tax liens are auctioned. For example, Florida holds two annual auctions: one in April and one in June.
- To participate in an auction, interested investors must register with the county clerk’s office ahead of time and provide proof of identity and age (typically a driver’s license). They will also be required to put down a deposit, which is typically 10% of the value of the tax lien certificate they wish to purchase. Investors can attend auctions in person or participate remotely by phone or online.
- Get your finances in order. You’ll need to have enough cash to cover the purchase price of the tax lien certificate and any additional fees associated with the transaction.
- Attend the auction and bid on the tax lien certificate. If your bid is accepted, you’ll be required to pay for the tax lien certificate immediately. When bidding on a tax lien certificate, investors compete against one another to offer the highest interest rate; depending on the state; certificates are auctioned off to either the highest bidder or lowest bidder. For example, in Florida, tax liens are sold to the highest bidder; in Texas, they are sold to the lowest bidder. Once an investor wins an auction, they must pay for the certificate within a certain period of time (usually 30 days). The certificate will then be mailed to them along with any documentation related to the property taxes owed.
- Wait for the redemption period to expire. The redemption period is when the property owner has to pay off their delinquent taxes, plus interest and penalties. This period can last anywhere from a few months to several years, depending on the laws in your jurisdiction.
- If the property owner doesn’t redeem their tax lien during the redemption period, you can foreclose on their property and eventually take ownership.
The Pros of Buying Tax Lien Certificates
Investing in Tax Lien Code can be a great way to earn a return on your investment and get your foot in the door of real estate investing. Here are some of the benefits:
- High returns.
One of the biggest attractions of tax lien investing is the potential for high returns. Depending on the state you’re investing in, you could see 10-24% returns.
Another big benefit is that real estate assets back tax liens. This means that if something happens and you don’t get paid back, you can ultimately foreclose on the property and recoup your investment that way.
Unlike other types of investments, tax liens are relatively simple. You don’t have to worry about repairs, tenants, or any other headaches that come with being a landlord.
Tax liens can also offer you a great deal of flexibility when it comes to choosing an investment. You can choose to invest in single liens or portfolios of multiple liens, giving you control over your level of risk.
Another advantage of tax lien investing is that it can help diversify your portfolio and reduce your overall risk. Investing in an asset class that’s not correlated with stocks and bonds can help balance out your portfolio and protect yourself against market volatility.
The Cons of Buying Tax Lien Certificates
Of course, no investment is without risk, and there are some potential drawbacks to buying tax liens that you should be aware of before you dive in headfirst. These include:
- You could lose your entire investment. One big downside is that you could lose your entire investment if the property owner never pays back what they owe. In some cases, you may even have to pay for repairs yourself if the property falls into disrepair. In short, a good amount of risk is involved, so make sure you do your homework before investing.
- It takes time. Another thing to remember is that collecting delinquent taxes can take time. In some cases, it could take years to get paid back, so this isn’t an investment for people looking for immediate returns.
- You need cash. Many states require buyers to pay for their purchases in cash, so this isn’t an investment for people who don’t have liquid assets.
- You need to do your research. Finally, it’s important to remember that not all tax liens are created equal. Some states offer higher returns than others, so it’s important to do your research before investing. Otherwise, you could end up losing money instead of making it.
Investing in tax liens can be a great way to earn a solid return on your investment, but it’s not without its risks. Before you sink your hard-earned cash into a tax lien certificate, do your homework and familiarize yourself with all aspects of the process to make informed decisions along the way.