Tax Delinquent Property Investing – County Departments Explained

Tax Delinquent Property Investing – County Departments Explained

I remember in my early days when I just started investing in Tax Delinquent Properties I was quite confused as to what all these different county departments actually do and how I need to use their services.

For the purpose of Investing in Tax Delinquent Properties you usually don’t work with more than 3-5 different departments which usually are:

Treasurer / Tax Collector’s office


Clerk / Recorder

Mapping Department

Planning and Zoning Department

Mostly you will work with the first three, and the second two only occasionally.

Here is a brief explanation of what these departments do:

  1. Treasurer / Tax Collector’s office
    The name might be different in your state but this is basically the office that collects the property taxes. It is that this office where you can find out how much property taxes each property owes and when the next sale (tax Lien or Tax Deed) is scheduled. Also if your state allows for purchase of Tax Liens or Tax Deeds over the counter AFTER the auction, you will be able to do this here.

  1. Assessor
    The County assessor’s responsibility to assess each property the value for taxation purposes. Whenever a property is being sold, the Assessor usually gets a notification of the sale price as well as some of the terms of sale. With this information he can then assess the value of all properties in the county. You might remember getting a “Property Valuation Notice” from your county Assessor telling you how much he thinks your property is worth.In many states, the Assessor also keeps copies of all Property Maps, also commonly called Plat Maps. Instead of going to the Recorder (who keeps all official records for the county but these are often in large and weird formats) you can also often go to the Assessor who has all maps in usually more handy formats and paper sizes.

    For me this is usually the first stop at a county when I am about to look at a bunch of properties. I go to the Assessor’s office, get copies of all property plat maps which helps me finding the properties I am looking for.

  1. Clerk / Recorder:
    This official and office keeps records of all recorded documents in the history of the county. That means all property ownership changes, Deeds, Agreements, Mortgages, Liens, Court Judgments are recorded here and kept electronically or in form of paper or micro-fish. Nowadays most counties are well advanced in their conversion from Paper and Micro-fish to Electronically scanned images but some are still in the process of converting these files. In any case and no matter what format the recorded documents exist, they are sorted by Book and Page in chronological form and will allow you to do a title search to any level of detail.

  1. Mapping Department:
    I personally only use the Mapping department when either the Assessor does not have copies of all Plat Maps available or more frequently when I am looking for a comprehensive County Map with all roads and other orientation points. Usually the mapping department has something like that for sale for a token amount of approx. $10.00

  1. Planning and Zoning:
    You will need to go to the planning and zoning department if you have questions about what is allowed to be built on the property you are buying and to check the limitations of the allowed uses. For example, if you are planning to bid on a parcel with a House at a busy intersection at Tax Sale you might want to check if this property is zoned commercial or residential. Or if you are planning to purchase a Vacant lot in the outskirts of town, you definitely want to check how this lot is zoned. Is it Residential, Commercial, or even Agricultural… depending on what it is zoned and what the surrounding plans are you might be able to re-zone it which alone can multiply the value of a property.

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