How to Succeed at Real Estate Auctions


Have you seen those late-night television commercials promising that you can buy real estate for just pennies on the dollar? Have you wanted to get in on that but didn’t know how? Here’s how…

Right off the bat, let’s get one rumor out of the way. You can NOT by just any property you’ve seen for sale this way. Tax auctions are only for a certain category of real estate. When owners don’t pay their property taxes, they are sent a series of notices and warning, and then, if they still don’t pay up, their properties are sold at a special kind of auction.

The last notice they receive is frequently delivered by a Sheriff deputy, and the auctions are often referred to as a ‘Sheriff’s Sale’. In many areas, the bidding starts at one dollar. The bidding can go up to any amount, (sometimes much more than the property is worth!). There are great bargains to be had though, if you know what you’re doing.

Cozy up to the county staff
The workers a the county tax offices are your best source of information, so be NICE! By the day of the sale they are going to be overworked and tired of the whole mess. Be patient, be friendly, be ultra-courteous, and consider offering chocolate. Seriously, these folks can tell you things that aren’t in the official records, so you don’t want to get on their bad side.

Check for assessments
In some places, outstanding assessments become the responsibility of the buyer. Those can be hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. Sometimes those are listed separately from the tax data, so you need someone familiar with the local system to help make sure you don’t miss anything. If you’ve been nice to the staff, they’ll tell you which properties have problems attached to them, so that you can steer clear. Otherwise, you’ll have to search the individual records of each property.

In some areas, the person that’s losing the property at the tax sale will be given the opportunity to buy back their property even after the sale. This process is called redemption. The amount of time they have varies from as little thirty days to as much as three years. During that time, you won’t want to build on the property, or move in and get comfortable, because you may have to give it back. The best counties to attend auctions in are the ones that do not allow redemptions.

Attend in the rain
And in the snow! The worse the weather the better! Most counties still have the old-timey clause that says the auction will be held ‘on the courthouse steps’. To accommodate the crowd, many of them really do have their auctions outside on the steps. The worse the weather is, the more people will decide that it’s not worth the drive to get there and stand in that weather. The fewer people show up, the less people there are to run up the bids. If only one person shows up, that person can legally bid $1 on each item, and win them all! You want to be THAT person.

Go to out-of-the-way places
Similar to the weather issue, people are less likely to travel to inconvenient places, or hard to find places. You’ll find less bidders, and therefore lower bids, at the least convenient, hardest to find, small towns. It’s worth the trip!

Tour in advance
You can get a list of the properties prior to the sale and drive around and look at them. I highly recommend this. You can’t go inside the houses, of course, because people may be living in them. But driving by can tell you a lot. The county records may say there’s a three-bedroom house there, but it can’t tell you the condition. Often those records are only updated every 3 to 7 years. If there’s been a fire or a demolishing since the last survey, the only way you’ll know is to drive by.

Don’t panic-buy
Okay, you’re there. You’ve come all this way, you scouted all the properties in advance, you’re standing in the freezing cold hail-storm on the courthouse steps and still, the bids are higher than you expected. After all this effort, you feel like you have to buy something so that you don’t go home empty-handed. That’s a normal urge, but you must RESIST IT.

Don’t ever panic and buy something just to buy something. These sales go on every day in different counties all over the country. Try again another day. Your dream property could be at the next sale, so keep at it.

Original article by Susan300.

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7 responses to this post.

  1. Great advice you shared here. Thanks. It would really take some time to be good at investing but with patience, knowledge and right timing, real estate investing is quite rewarding. By the way, I need your help. I know a great Kentucky home that might interest you too. Thanks.


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  3. Thanks a lot.This post very help me:)


  4. I don’t know If I said it already but …I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Tony Brown


    • Thanks Tony,

      I appreciate your feedback. It’s great to hear that our content is useful.

      Please share the wealth and spread us around.

      Also, feel free to let us know if there is anything else you would like to see or ways that we could improve our blog and site for our readers.



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