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Over The Counter Tax Certificate Investing

Aug 17, 2007
Tax lien certificates can make a great investment. If you are not familiar with tax lien certificates, then see my article entitled "An Introduction To Tax Lien Certificates."

Many people want to invest in tax lien certificates but stop themselves because they think that they need to go to the live auction to do it. Yes, it's entirely true. The most common place to invest in tax lien certificates is at the live annual auction. The auction varies by state and even county, so check with your local county tax collector to see when they have their auction.

Can I let you in on a little secret? I have been investing in tax liens for several years now and have NEVER been to a live auction. How can that be, you ask? Easy! I invest in Over The Counter certificates (OTC).

So, what is an OTC certificate and how can you profit from it? An Over The Counter certificate is one that did not sell at the live auction. In many states, when the certificate does not sell, it is "struck off" to the county. The county simply has a list in their office and you just call them up and get it. Then, you do some research, pick out the ones you want and get the lien without any traveling or hassles.

Just because you can buy tax certificates Over The Counter, should you? Well, maybe and maybe not. Remember that in most cases, Over The Counter certificates are liens that did not sell at the regular tax sale. So, there are some precautions that you should take to make sure that you are getting a good deal.

First of all, start with counties that have websites. Luckily, nowadays it is very easy to find a county with a good property research website. Then, you simply enter the parcel number into the website and it will tell you what is there, and how much it's worth. Ideally, you want to find properties that have a structure already on them, but it's not always easy to find.

Next, you need to see the total taxes due from all years and compare that to the tax valuation. The reason you need to know this is that in the event of a foreclosure, you will need to pay off all the back taxes. The worst thing is to find out that there are more due in back taxes than the property is worth.

Once, you find that out, then copy down the legal description and call the local Realtor. Tell them that you are planning on investing in a certain property and may eventually need their services to resell it. I have never had a Realtor not give me an honest opinion of an area. Many times, they tell me NOT TO BUY there and that's ok too. It's better to find out now than to find out when it's too late.

And there you have it! With proper planning, you too can be an armchair investor.
About the Author
Carlos Scarpero is an experienced real estate investor who specializes in land. On his blog at http://www.scarpero.com/real_estate , he discusses innovative and creative real estate strategies to make your real estate investing more profitable.
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