Over-the-Counter Tax Sales

In many states, liens or deeds that were not purchased at a public or internet auction are made available for purchase “over-the-counter” (OTC) by either the county/municipality or the state.

The benefits to the investor of over-the-counter sales include:

  • The maximum interest rate is given for liens; there is no bidding up the minimum price for deeds.
  • There is no direct or immediate competition.
  • There are no travel costs if you can do your research online or work with someone locally.

The drawbacks include:

  • You are buying leftovers that have already gone through a sale.
  • More screening is required to weed out the junk.
  • There are not as many liens or deeds available to choose from.
  • There are not as many properties with improvements (i.e., houses).

The best time to obtain an OTC list is immediately after a sale. Typically you will have to wait 3 to 4 weeks for the county or municipality to compile the list. The list may be posted online, or you may have to contact the government office (e.g., Treasurer, Tax Collector) directly to obtain the list.

You will want to find out the correct “lingo” that is used for these lists, as is varies from state to state; as well as which government office is responsible for selling the over-the-counter liens or deeds. For example, Arizona’s unsold liens are called “certificates of purchase” and are handled by the Treasurer’s Office, while unsold deeds are handled by the Board of Supervisors. In Colorado the Treasurer’s Office is responsible for “county-held liens.” In Florida, unsold deeds are called “Lands Available for Taxes” and are handled by the Clerk of the Circuit Court, while unsold liens are handled by the Tax Collector’s Office. And in Texas, unsold deeds are referred to as “struck off” and are sold either by the counties themselves (typically the larger counties) or by law firms.


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