Ever since I was a teenager and the hit show Storage Wars came out on A&E, I have been fascinated with auctions. In the show’s case, I always found it so amazing that people who sometimes own very valuable assets just don’t pay for their storage locker! This opens up a feeding frenzy for anyone interested in bidding on it, claim it as their own, and resell the items.
Tax sale auctions are very similar. Real estate owned by an individual or entity has its associated taxes for a particular county that it’s located in. Every year the property taxes are due and if not paid, they accrue interest and late fees over time. If carried on long enough, these late fees and interest pile up to create a hefty tax bill. Here is where the opportunity arises.
Typically after many years of not paying county tax bills, the county in which the real estate is located will move to foreclose and repossess the property. Usually this is done with a law firm who opens suit against the property owner for their lack of tax payments. In order to do this, the law firm usually does a title search on the property being foreclosed. This is important for them to do to make sure the property in question is owned by who the county tax office says. You see, the county clerk’s office and the tax assessor (appraisal district, tax office, etc… Every county has different verbiage for the office name) are two completely separate entities. When buying a piece of property, the deed will be recorded in the clerk’s office putting the world on notice that ownership has changed. This is what matters when chain of title is examined. However, the tax assessor in many counties only updates their records once or twice a year. The assessor goes to the clerk’s records and makes any ownership changes to the tax roll. So if a piece of property was sold and recorded in February but the assessor doesn’t update their records until the fall, the real owner will not show up on the actual tax roll for months!
Problems occur because sometimes the tax assessor will mess up when transferring the ownership when a piece of property is bought or sold. Sometimes they will forget to transfer ownership, or create two “accounts” on the tax roll. Property tax will pile up interest on an old owner who sold the real estate while the rightful owner is paying the tax. It would be very easy for the county or a law firm to mistake such a property as being delinquent, when really the tax roll just has multiple accounts for the same property with the current owner paying taxes and the old owner not paying taxes. This is why a title search is important before foreclosing and auctioning it off!
During a tax sale, there will usually be a minimum bid. This number is derived from the amount of taxes owed to the county; they want their money! The piece will be auctioned off on the courthouse steps by an auctioneer with the sheriff present. Typically the property will be granted on a sheriff’s deed which has NO warrants. However since a title search was conducted by the law firm filing suit in the beginning, it’s safe to say the title is clean. Anyone who is present at the courthouse is free to bid on a property. Keep in mind that payment is expected same day and the county will only accept cashier’s check or cash. Similar to the show storage wars, people like to bid things up without any idea of location or value. I find it difficult to get good deals at these auctions for this reason. The Lookie Lou’s always seem to ruin the fun, but there are always diamonds to be found in the rough!
Throughout 2017, my customers spoke and made my company, Jaz Land, a huge success. For that reason, I decided to return the favor and give away 10 acres of land in Presidio County, TX for FREE.
This land had a tax roll value of $2,000 and I had it sold under contract multiple times for $100 down and $100 a month for 36 months. All said, its value is somewhere between $2000 and $3000. It had the mineral rights as well! All you needed for entry was to like my business page, Jaz Land, on Facebook and to submit your email address. Over 60 people entered and the winner was chosen. To prove this is legit, I interviewed the winner, Shyann, and personally brought the deed with my signature!
With this land giveaway being such a great success for myself and the company, I hope to give away a piece of land twice a year. Don’t expect anything huge, but who wouldn’t want a piece of land worth $2,000 with no back taxes and a yearly tax statement of only 20 bucks?! Stay tuned!
When I list a piece of land, I typically get bombarded with a bunch of good questions. A lot of people are first time land buyers or just don’t understand how it can be so easy. They think there must be some sort of strings attached, however I try to remove ALL barriers for the customer. So, what exactly will you be paying? Simple, exactly what I list! The only other fee that I charge is property tax on top of the monthly payment. For instance, if a county charges $50 per year for taxes on a piece of land, I will add a $4 or $5 extra payment on top of each month’s payment. So, if I’m listing a piece of land for $200 and the taxes are approximately $50 per year, you can expect to be paying $205 per month. That’s it!
On my owner financing, there are no credit checks involved. I am not an institution and any loan is secured through my company on a legally binding contract. If you don’t pay me, I will take the land back like the bank taking back a house or a car.
I charge a 7% interest rate on all my owner financing deals. This is INCLUDED in the monthly payment meaning the principal is less than the total financed amount. Let’s take a look at the amortization table below:
As you can see, the loan term is 7 years, or 84 months at 7% interest. The “Total Cost” of the loan is $21,000 while the “Principal” is $16,564.32. This is because the 7% interest is included in the $250 per month payment. This is the exact spreadsheet I use to calculate all the loans for my deals. Obviously, the numbers continue on well past 18 on to 84 but are cut off in this illustration. This is the exact same calculation my online loan system uses, so any extra payment is added to the principal accordingly. The faster it’s paid off, the closer it will be to the principal amount instead of the total cost.
I know there are a lot of people out there selling land and charging $200-$500 doc prep fees just to change a couple of fields around on a deed template. Title companies will charge $750+ just to close a deal and prepare paperwork. This is my way of no strings attached land deals and full transparency. Everything I list is what you get! I don’t need to charge processing fees, credit card fees, closing fees, doc prep fees or any of that crap. I want to sell you land quickly, fairly, and transparently. I hope this helps when trying to make the decision to buy land from Jaz Land over someone else!
Buying land doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, I try to make it so easy that sometimes I sell land in less than an hour after listing it. This even causes some people to think I am a scam! Realtors will take days and title companies will take weeks to do what I can do. Let me walk you through how I sell land this quickly.
Speed: I get potential buyers the information they need FAST so they can make a decision. Closing documents go out same day and I’m usually available to meet if requested as soon as possible. Realtors will often take days and are unresponsive through email and the phone. Title companies will take weeks to get unnecessary signatures and approval through their attorneys. I want to ATTACK and get you the information you need NOW. Most of my customers can attest I am responding within minutes of them sending me a message or calling me. The faster I answer your concerns, the faster I get my money and you get your land. I value your time as well as mine!
Knowledge: By consulting legal and subject experts in the industry, my knowledge has grown to rival or far surpass real estate agents and brokers in the areas I work. Do you believe that some agents think it’s illegal to sell land without going through a title company?! I’ve heard it and seen it all but when it comes down to it, a deed recorded in the county with appropriate fees is ALL that is required to legally transfer land ownership. With access to proprietary courthouse deed software, I can see exactly what’s going on with a piece of land in almost any area. I do title searches, pull plat maps, and make visits to the courthouse if needed. All of my paperwork has been drafted and reviewed by multiple lawyers specializing in business law and real estate.
Trust: After doing business with hundreds of clients now, people have grown to trust my company. I have people calling me asking for land in entirely different areas from where I typically work! They associate my name with great land deals, especially in Texas. My website and social media presence is growing with more and more reviews from people who are satisfied with the land and closing process I provide. In the end, I cannot allow one deal to ruin my business so every customer counts!
Ease: I make it easy to buy from me! Who doesn’t like that? I provide a simple online checkout that allows down payment to be given by credit or debit card. I have an electronic document system that enables legal documents to be signed within minutes. If requested, I’m available at almost any time to meet by appointment to close a deal.
Sometimes I just need to get to the courthouse and dig through the books myself. I often get asked “how do you find your deals” or “how do you know the title is clean”? The answer is always the same: research! Right now at Jaz Land I am a one stop shop. I do all of the deed and legal research myself. I’ve personally been to the courthouses and dug through the indexes for hours. Every public document for land that gets recorded at the county is stored at the county clerk’s office. Here you will find books upon books of records containing ownership. In Texas, this dates back to the early 1900’s or prior. Connecting the dots through these books can tell you a lot about a land’s past.
Me inside of the county clerk’s office digging through the indexes to find grantors and grantees
During one trip in 2017 I found myself at the Jeff Davis County courthouse in West Texas. Normally I have access to any deed I want through special online software that taps directly into the courthouse records. Jeff Davis is different, however. They’re so old school that nothing is digital and can only be found in person at their Fort Davis, Texas office. It’s like the Wild West.
On this visit, I was searching records to make sure current ownership was valid on a 20 acre piece. On a typical piece of land I am researching back at least 20 years to check the chain of title. To do so is a relatively simple task, however the documents required may not be so simple to find! Human error can result in lost documents or messed up Grantor/Grantee names which throw it out of place in the books. I’m looking to make sure grantors and grantees line up and the lots weren’t “double sold”. A workflow through checking a piece of land’s title may look like the following.
In this case, Grantor A was the original owner of the parcel 3 owners ago. He granted it to Grantee B who owned it 2 owners prior to the current owner, D. B then granted it to C who is the previous owner who eventually sold it to Grantee D who is the current owner. Now when I go to buy it from D, they will become the grantor and myself the most recent grantee. Here I’m looking to make sure that all of the grantors and grantees line up and that I don’t see Grantor C also selling the property to Grantee E in addition to Grantee D. In this case, the lot would have been double sold and the county records in the tax office will most likely show both grantors D and E on the tax roll. Whoever had the deed recorded FIRST is the winner and owns the land.
Many times the chain of title can be followed back to its origination in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s when the original Texas land surveyors acquired the land from the state, marked it off, and then sold it. Title companies, however, usually only follow a chain of title back 30 years or so. Next time you buy through a title company keep that in mind. As stated, I like to go back at least 20 years myself but often go back 50 or more following a land’s exchange of ownership. A quit claim deed will flag my radar because it’s often involved in sketchy land deals where the title is not transferred correctly. It’s always important to exchange title of land in a legal manner because once incorrect, there will be a break in the title chain until fixed. This means any future owners may not truly own that land because it was sold improperly in the first place.
Landmen doing research at the county clerk’s office
Another reason I’ll need to make a trip to the courthouse is to get a plat map of the piece of land in question. It’s important to try and request a plat map be recorded with your land when the lot you’re buying is in a subdivision. Always keep this on record so the lot can be located. Personally, I try to record a plat on land I sell whenever I find one for land that has been subdivided. For simple aliquot subdivision this is not necessary. I also will always provide any plat to my buyers for their records so they don’t need to make a courthouse visit or request from the clerk’s office for their plat! The picture below is an example of what a plat map might look like.
Plat map showing the lot breakdown of a section of land in West Texas
Digging through deeds and checking ownership is important when not closing through a title company. Although the chances are slim that the title chain has been broken, I still like to make sure everything lines up before selling a customer a piece of land. I will never sell a piece of land that has broken title unless specified to the buyer or a prior arrangement has been made. If I can’t find the records online, that means I’m off to the county clerk’s office to find what I need. Happy deed hunting!