What is a Tax Lien Sale? An Insider’s Guide

If you are wondering what is a tax lien sale as an aspiring investor, it is a method by which a government body attempts to recover unpaid property taxes. When owners fail to pay their property taxes, the governmental authority is authorized to place a tax lien on the property, which is essentially a legal claim against the property for the unpaid amount. To collect the owed property taxes, the tax lien is then sold at auction. This sale does not immediately transfer property ownership but grants the purchaser the right to collect the owed taxes, often with added interest, from the defaulting taxpayer.

If the property taxes remain unpaid, the tax lien certificate holder may eventually have the right to foreclose on the property, potentially taking ownership if certain legal conditions are met. Therefore, tax lien sales represent a unique investment opportunity, but they also serve as a critical tool for local governments to ensure the collection of tax revenue. Prospective investors in tax lien sales should be well-informed about the auction processes, their rights as tax lien holders, and the benefits and responsibilities involved in these financial transactions.

Tax Lien Sale Auction


Key Takeaways

  • Tax lien sales help governments recover unpaid property taxes through auctions.
  • Purchasing a tax lien grants the right to collect owed taxes plus interest of up to 24%.
  • Investors should be knowledgeable about the auction process and foreclosure rights.

Understanding What is a Tax Lien Sale

Understanding tax liens and tax sales is critical for both property owners and investors dealing with property taxes. These processes can have a big impact on people and their finances.

What is a Tax Lien?

A tax lien is a legal claim against the property for unpaid taxes. Essentially, it ensures that the owed tax debt is a public record, and it must be resolved before the property can be transferred to another owner.

How Tax Lien Sales Work

Tax lien sales are mechanisms through which local counties and municipalities collect overdue property taxes. An auction is held, where bidders can purchase the tax lien certificate representing the unpaid property tax debt. The winning bidder offers to pay the property tax debt in full, typically in exchange for the legal right to collect the debt plus interest from the property owner. If the debt remains unpaid within a certain period, the holder of the tax lien certificate may have the right to foreclose on the property, often resulting in a tax deed through which the holder can become the owner.

The Auction Process and Bidding at a Tax Lien Sale

Tax lien sales involve a bidding process where you compete with other investors to purchase the lien. Before you dive into the specifics of preparing, attending, and following up on an auction, let’s explore the key things to consider when placing your bids.

Preparing for a Tax Lien Sale

Before a tax lien auction takes place, make sure to conduct a thorough analysis on the properties involved. This due diligence is about analyzing the property details, the terms of the auction, and understanding the interest rates that lien certificates can yield. Typically, you’ll need to deposit a set amount of fees to participate in the bidding process. Make sure to review the public notice of sale and any documentation provided by the auctioning body to know what is expected of you.

The Tax Lien Auction: What to Expect

At the public auction, properties with unpaid property taxes are offered, and you can bid on the tax lien certificate representing the outstanding taxes. The auction could be in person or online, and bidding may start at the total amount of unpaid delinquent taxes and fees. As a potential highest bidder, you aim to purchase a tax lien with favorable interest rates. It’s important to stick to your budget because winning bids require immediate deposit or payment in some cases.

After the Auction: What Comes Next

After successfully bidding on a tax lien certificate, you enter a redemption period, during which the property owner can pay the back taxes with interest accruing to your benefit. If the owner fails to redeem, you could potentially foreclose on the property. 

Advantages of Investing in Tax Lien Sales

Interest that you can earn in tax lien investing can be as high as 24%

Investing in tax liens sales can be a compelling strategy for if you are looking to enhance your investment portfolio with an option that balances low entry barriers with substantial returns.

  • Low Capital Requirement: You’re not required to break the bank to start. With just a few hundred dollars, you can begin your journey into tax lien investing.
  • High Return on Investment: Enjoy fixed interest rates up to 24%, giving you a predictable and high return that’s not affected by market fluctuations.
  • Risk Management: This investment type offers a way to manage risk effectively, as it’s secured by real property, providing a tangible asset as collateral.

Tax lien investing allows you to explore an avenue that aligns with a strategic approach to wealth accumulation, offering a blend of manageable risk and noteworthy returns.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does one purchase a property at a tax lien sale?

To be clear, you are purchasing a tax lien certificate at a tax lien sale. You get the legal right to collect the tax debt plus interest. If the tax lien remains unpaid for a certain period, you may have the right to foreclose on the property. As for purchasing tax lien certificates, you will need to attend an auction, which can be held online or in person. Most counties provide the schedule and a list of properties with outstanding tax debts.

Can you provide a list of tax delinquent properties available for sale?

Ted Thomas has a Monthly Tax Defaulted Property Auction Directory & Hotspot Calendar. Learn where properties coming up for Auction are, and when and how you can bid on them.

What are the necessary steps to take possession of a property after a tax sale?

After a tax sale, the steps to take possession typically include paying the bid amount, recording the tax deed with the county, and then following any applicable redemption period laws before real ownership and possession rights are granted.

Which states are considered the best for purchasing tax lien certificates?

The states considered the best for purchasing tax lien certificates often offer higher interest rates and a more investor-friendly process. These can include states like Florida, Arizona, Iowa, and many more. Make sure to check out our Retire Rich From Home Virtual Workshop to learn more.


Tax Lien investing can be a smart move for those looking to broaden their investment horizons. It’s an area where understanding the ins and outs can lead to significant returns, notably up to 24% in some areas. 

If you’d like to know more about tax-defaulted real estate investing, Ted Thomas provides full support and complete training with home study courses, Q&A webinars, live tutorials, workshops, virtual classes, personal coaching with certified coaches, and an interactive map and auction calendar research tool that allows you to visit each county online to find the details about upcoming auctions.

Start your money-making journey by attending Ted’s 7-Hour foundational training. Book your seat today to attend the Retire Rich From Home Virtual Workshop.

Want to earn massive income from bargain real estate investing? Would you like to buy mortgage-free properties for pennies on the dollar? Or earn double-digit interest rates secured by real estate? Then get started today by clicking the button below and get your FREE Insiders Report.

Ted Thomas

Ted Thomas is America’s Leading Authority on Tax Lien Certificates and Tax Deed Auctions, as well as a publisher and author of more than 30 books. His guidebooks on Real Estate have sold in four corners of the world. He has been teaching people just like you for over 30 years how to buy houses in good neighborhoods for pennies on the dollar. He teaches how to create wealth with minimum risk and easy-to-learn methods.

The Ted Thomas Difference:

  • Ted is recognized as America’s Tax Lien Certificate & Tax Deed Authority and has been helping people with investing in tax defaulted properties for over 30 years.
  • Ted has built a team of certified coaches that have 70 combined years of auction experience and are available to his students by phone to guide and mentor you to avoid getting overwhelmed or worse, losing money
  • Ted has ironclad PROOF that what he is teaching you does work. With hundreds of successful students providing testimonials and a 4.9 Google rating which is unheard of in this industry.
  • Ted and his staff don’t hide behind a website; they can be reached during office hours at 321-449-9940.

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