When you do a title search basically what you are looking for is Marketable Title. Marketable title is really the absence of liens and clouds, the absence of IRS liens, and the absence of missing links in the chain of title.
Missing links in the chain of title could be for example when the original a person owned a property for 40 years and then passed away and his kids started paying the taxes and eventually they want to sell the property. Well if there was no probate or no will or anything like that, then there is no indication of who should receive this property. It might be that the deceased’s will was to give it to his church. It might be that he mentioned to somebody, “You know what, when I die you’ll get this property,” and this person might even have a witness. Nobody can prove anything and the only solution here is to have the heirs go through a probate procedure to clear the title. For that you or they will most likely need to hire an attorney and it will take a few months.
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If you invest in such a property through a Tax Lien Sale, or buy the actual property at a Tax Deed Sale you don’t have to worry about that, on the contrary, if you find information prior to the auction that shows such an issue existing it is a Sign indicating to you that is property is more likely to go all the way to tax Lien foreclosure or all the way to the Tax Deed sale. If your investment strategy is to get the actual property, then that is a property you WANT to focus on.
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Now just as a side note. Even if you buy Tax Delinquent Properties directly from the long time owners, some of my best deals came from situations like that. I bought a property in Florida where I paid for the Probate procedures having a written, legally binding commitment from the heirs to sell that property to me for around $350.00 after the probate was through. The probate cost me $2500.00 for a total cost of purchase of $2,850.00. Days later I sold the property for just under $30,000.00 CASH.
Probate issues do come up in the Tax Delinquent Property arena, but it’s usually quite easy to fix them. Most sellers were smart enough to buy a piece of land or a property or a house and take title as what is called joint tenants with right of survivorship. It means very simply that if there are two people on the deed and one of them passes away, the other one automatically owns 100% of the property. All that is needed to get the deceased party off title is to record a death certificate. But if a death certificate is not recorded, then the county does not know that that person has passed away, so therefore if the widow now wants to sell this piece of property, then there’s a cloud on title. If you buy it from her, you’re not going to have a clear title to sell until her spouse’s death certificate is recorded.
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