When a property owner in Georgia fails to pay the property tax, the county tax commissioner may sell the real estate to raise money. You can then buy the tax lien property at a public auction. Tax lien auctions are conducted on the steps of the county courthouse the first Tuesday of the month.
In Georgia, there are two types of tax lien sales: non-judicial and judicial tax sales. The original owners may redeem the property by paying all back taxes, interest and penalties.
Finding Liens for Sale
Contact the county tax commissioner in the area of interest to find auction information. In a non-judicial tax sale, the commissioner requires the county sheriff to sell the property at a Sheriff’s Sale. The highest bidder takes ownership of the property.
Notices of Sheriff’s Sales must be printed prior to the auction. You can find these notices in the legal section of the local newspaper, and sometimes on websites. Fulton County tax sales, for example, can be found on the Fulton County Sheriff's Office website.
Watch the legal notice section for notices of Judicial Hearings and Judicial Tax Sales. With a judicial tax sale, a petition is filed with the courts to auction property with past due taxes. The original owner has 60 days to redeem the property after a judicial tax sale.
Find the county requirements to buy at a tax lien auction. Most counties require the buyer to be present at the auction. Full payment must be made the day of the auction by cash, a cashier’s check or a money order.
Researching the Property
Research the property thoroughly at the county recorder’s and assessor’s office. You may also find information about the property in the official county newspaper, such as The Champion Newspaper in DeKalb County. Conduct a title search to find any additional liens or encumbrances. Determine the zoning, permitted use, easements and legal access.
Visit the property and find the parcel boundaries. Carefully inspect any structures and note challenges to development. Identify toxic waste or hazardous substance problems.
Research recent sales of similar property. Read real estate advertisements to find the asking price of similar real estate. The minimum bid at the tax lien auction is the total of the back taxes, interest, penalties and costs.
Bidding at Auction
Make a competitive bid at the auction. Retain ownership of the property for one year and wait for the original owner to redeem it by paying all costs (levy, recording, adverstising and commissions) plus interest. The original owner has a one-year right of redemption for a non-judicial tax sale.
Kim Dieter has taught agriscience classes, developed curriculum and participated in the school accreditation process at the secondary and community college levels since 1980. She holds a Master of Science degree from the University of California, Davis, in animal science.