Monday, September 9, 2013

Riley: Navigating the Tax Sale Process

By Larry Riley in the Muncie Star-Press:

A of couple times over the last few weeks a special 10-page supplement has been included in The Star Press, most recently last Wednesday: the 2013 Delaware County tax sale notice, featuring 1,930 properties.

Owners of these properties are behind in their property taxes by at least three payments (taxes are due twice a year, May and November) and at that point are subject to getting auctioned off in the tax sale.

Owners can pay up and remove the property from the sale anytime up to, I think, the day before the Oct. 1 sale, and people pour into the county Treasurer’s office doing so continually.

By late last week, the number of properties still scheduled for the block were down to 1,689.

(Owners have to pay both back taxes and a late penalty of 10 percent, though some people who scam the system know they need only pay the oldest of the three payments in arrears. They still owe a bundle, but their property gets pulled from sale.)

I’m sure state law specifies the format of the legal publication — the aforementioned 10-page insert — but the notice is almost worthless to anyone interested in what’s for sale.

Each property starts with its obscure parcel identification, a series of 9 digits followed by another series of 18 digits, then the amount of arrearage, owners’ names, and then property address.

A reader would have to know how the parcel ID system arranges addresses in the county, find that general area in the 10 pages, and then plod through listing after listing if they wanted to see whether a particular property was in the sale.

Regardless, I’m happy the county shells out some of the fewer and fewer dollars it has to pay for the insert.

Yet you do have to research much more if you’re interested in actually bidding on properties, and a lot of businesses, both locally and nationwide, do so. Buying tax sale properties has become a cottage industry, and more, these days.

In part, this is because a buyer is not really purchasing the property, but buys a certificate giving them the right to take title after a one-year period of time in which the original owner can redeem the property by paying the original taxes and penalties.

See the full article here: