Tax Deed Sales: Buying Homes by Paying Other People’s Taxes

Image of a notebook sitting on a table with the words "property tax" written in it.

Ever heard those fantastic stories where the home buyer pays $10,000 and sells the house later for $200,000? You might be hearing about tax deed sales. They are not mere fantasies — but, as you might imagine, you are unlikely to be the only one attending an auction. By the time everyone’s done bidding, profit margins can be disappointing. Moreover, homes with tax liens can be in pretty bad shape. A lot of work and money goes into code-compliant home renovations.

So, not every tax deed sale is a fabulous deal. Buyers need to welcome risk, prepare for a lot of work, and come to the auctions well equipped for the territory.

But is your county a tax deed sale state? Or is it actually auctioning tax lien certificates? Or is it a smattering of both? Tax deed sales can ultimately convey properties to the high bidders. In contrast, there’s no home conveyance when you buy tax lien certificates.

Let’s look more closely at these types of investments, and their risk-reward profiles.

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Very Superstitious? Selling the “Stigmatized” Property

Image of a person looking shocked or surprised. Captioned: Selling the Stigmatized Property.

Stigmatized is an odd word to describe a perfectly good piece of property with a notable incident in its history. Indeed, stigmatized sounds like a pretty good deal, if you can buy a house at, say, a 10% discount because something happened in it.

Perhaps the house was featured in a film and of abiding interest to gawkers. Perhaps someone died there. Or a crime took place. The real or supposed negative psychological effects of these incidents on potential buyers can translate into a significant ding on the property value. If you’re a seller, though, you’re not going to be too enthused about offering that possible 10% discount.

So, what do sellers, buyers, and agents need to know about approaching such transactions? Must the seller disclose the past incident to the buyer? Let’s look at some scenarios, the industry’s view, and the law.

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Resolving a Property Line Dispute in 5 Steps

Image of the top of an uneven post fence line. Captioned: Resolving a Property line Dispute in 5 Steps

Sometimes, neighbors disagree on their boundary lines. Or one disagrees on how they can cross, or place something on, the other’s property. One might be claiming to have past permission to cross or use the contested space. Perhaps a prior owner didn’t tell a buyer about an agreement made earlier about a section of the land. Or perhaps at least one owner just doesn’t know where the boundary line is.

Whether the arguments need to escalate to legal action depends on whether the two can compromise, or just how important access to the land — or forbidding that access — really is. Is it best to focus on property as excluding all others, according to the letter of the law?

The results of legal rigidity aren’t always pretty!

It can be far better to understand neighbors as collaborators, with minor imperfections and fuzzy lines coming with the territory. After all, Earth’s natural features move and grow, as we do. In some situations, though, legal action becomes the best way for title holders to protect what they own. Here’s a journey of five steps to that legal resolution.

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Buying or Selling Your Home in 2021? Here Are Eight Great Real Estate Apps

A couple of people standing outside a house looking at a real estate app on their phone.

Today, more than half of all home buyers begin their search online. And no wonder. Real estate apps combine the ease of surfing the web with the mobility of a smartphone. Millions of properties are listed in dozens of apps. With so many options, where do you start? Here, we highlight eight good ones to try, and new features we’re watching in 2021.

Before we start, we note for our readers that this is information — not affiliate marketing. receives no compensation from any of these companies. We’re simply excited about the future of real estate, deeds and titles — and we love sharing our explorations with our readers. If you don’t see an app you love here today, we’ll likely cover it in the future.

OK, let’s look at the apps!

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6 Life-Changing Ways AI Is Converging With Real Estate

Person using a laptop computer meant to represent AI and how it is merging with real estate.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is here in a big way. It was already moving into the real estate sphere when the pandemic hit in 2020, and sped the uptake remarkably.

It’s all about technology that mimics human learning, predictions, and decision making. Machine learning, for example, is a form of AI that enables systems to consider patterns in large volumes of data, and respond optimally.

Ready to check out 6+ ways this technology is changing real estate? Artificial intelligence is…

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Succeeding With Contingent Offers in a Seller’s Market

Can you get a home you’ll love on your terms? Here are the top strategies for success in the current seller’s market.

Three people gathering at a table to discuss a contingent real estate offer.

Oh, to be a seller in places like Phoenix, Columbus, Seattle, Los Angeles or Sacramento! Sellers in these areas can count on a slew of offers — with some buyers simply waiving all contingencies at the start.

If you’re committed to submitting a contingent offer in this market, your likely success depends on two issues:

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The Home Stretch

A Buyer’s Guide to Closing Like a Pro

A small group of people at a real estate closing.

Buying a home? Getting to the finish line is a triumph, and you want to be ready for everything. Assuming all goes well through your closing day, you’ll hold the keys to your new property.

This means completing:

  • The home purchase, including the conveyance of the deed from seller to buyer.
  • The new mortgage loan, with its related documents.
  • A distribution of funds from the escrow account, following the binding agreements the parties have signed.

You’ve been working hard to get to closing. You want everything to run like a well-oiled machine. Here’s how to oil it in advance.

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Here We Go Again, Homeowners: A New Rash of Deed Scams

Image of the words "Scam Alert" in white in a black background.

“I hate scams.”

– Erica Jong

Pass the word to those who need to hear it. Across the United States, official-looking letters are convincing homeowners to pay for documents to certify the obvious — that they own their homes. Homeowners who send payments in response to these letters are not receiving the documents for which they paid.

Those most likely to fall prey to this scheme are recent and first-time home buyers, and the older generation. New homeowners are swamped with paperwork and offers. They can mistake solicitations for legitimate bills. And older people may be impaired, or simply less able to do research on this type of activity. Some of the solicitations are addressed to the names of the living trusts of older homeowners. Survivors of recently deceased homeowners are getting the notices, too.

Some recipients might be startled by the letters, thinking that someone is attempting to steal their deeds. Others might simply pay the amount without much thought, because the total sum requested is under $100.

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You Can Buy a Tesla with Bitcoin. How About a House?

Artist rendering of a bitcoin. Captioned: You Can Buy a Tesla with Bitcoin. How About a House?

Tesla will accept your Bitcoin when you buy your new self-driving car. Taking note, looked around — and yes, there are home sellers accepting cryptocurrency, too. Most of the homes that can be purchased with Bitcoin are in Florida, New York and California. But a few are popping up in the heartland.

Exchanging a home for Bitcoin could reward a seller in the long run, if the coin continues its phenomenal rise. For the buyer, it’s an adventure. And it’s a chance to transform digital assets into real estate. Bitcoin is becoming serious money, now that PayPal and other big-name payment channels are making it easy to spend. And for international buyers, digital coins have a universal status.

In the end, even if a buyer doesn’t pay for the house in Bitcoin, advertising that a home can be bought for Bitcoin is a great marketing strategy. These stories are still novelties, and they get picked up by multiple media outlets.

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Mortgage Approvals: The New Landscape for Post-Pandemic Home Buyers

It’s now obvious: the mortgage lending industry is forever changed. Here’s what happened — and what’s likely to come next.

The Year of Minimum-Risk Lending

Image of a person signing documents. Captioned: Mortgage Approvals: The New Landscape for Post-Pandemic Home Buyers

Back in April 2020, we noted that mortgage lenders were getting tougher on loan applicants. Perversely, the borrowers who stood to benefit most from the low interest rates that led to a refinancing boom were the ones who faced the highest barriers to access. Lenders scrutinized any changes in applicants’ work lives, income and credit profiles, looking for signs of instability.

Banks are traditionally uncomfortable with non-salaried applicants and volatile income streams. Without a continual stream of W2 wage income, applicants are often considered too risky. Some mortgage companies simply stopped working with applicants outside the Qualified Mortgage (QM) category in 2020. Even the companies that had, pre-pandemic, used their professional discretion to help viable borrowers. Even the ones that specialized in out-of-the-box loans.

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