A tax certificate is an enforceable first lien against the property for unpaid real estate taxes. The certificate holder is an independent investor who actually pays the taxes for a property owner in exchange for a competitive bid rate of return on the investment. The tax certificate sale allows investors to purchase certificates by paying the tax debt. The sale is conducted online in a reverse-auction style with participants bidding downward on interest rates starting at 18%; the certificate is awarded to the lowest bidder who will pay the taxes, interest and costs, and accept the lowest rate of interest. A tax certificate earns a minimum of 5% interest for the investor until the interest has accrued to greater than 5%, with the exception of "zero" interest bids, which always earn "zero" interest.
The Tax Certificate Sale is conducted at RealTaxLien.com and bidders must pre-register in order to participate in the sale. Bidder registration is available in early May. Bidders may place, edit and remove bids from the time of registration until the certificate is awarded on the day of sale. The certificates are grouped in batches which close hourly, giving bidders an opportunity for additional bidding. Bidders are not required to place a deposit. Bidders are responsible for all bids placed and are required to pay for all certificates awarded.
To redeem the certificate or remove the lien, payment must be made to the Tax Collector for delinquent taxes plus accrued interest, advertising costs and collection fees. The amount due for delinquent taxes is determined by the date payment is received by the Tax Collector and not the postmark. After payment is received and validated, the certificate holder is reimbursed the cost of the certificate plus interest and the lien against the property is removed.
The life of a tax certificate is seven years. In the event of a bankruptcy filing, the life of the certificate may be extended. If no action is taken by the tax certificate holder during the 7-year period and the taxes remain unpaid, the tax certificate is cancelled and the certificate holder will lose his or her investment.
Certificates can be sold and transferred to another buyer by submitting a notarized, written request along with a transfer fee of $2.25 per certificate.
Any certificate without a bid is struck to the County at 18% annual interest and is available for purchase at 18% on a first-come-first-serve basis at the online Tax Sale Website. Purchasers will need to register before buying certificates. Simply visit the website, select the area that says "Purchase County-held Certificates" and follow the instructions. If you are already registered, once you login, select “Go to Summary” then "Buy Certificates."