10 Things Every Real Estate Investor Should Know About Tax Liens

10 Things Every Real Estate Investor Should Know About Tax Liens

10 Things Every Real Estate Investor Should Know About Tax Liens

As a seasoned real estate investor, I’ve learned that tax liens can be a lucrative investment opportunity. However, they also come with their fair share of risks and complexities. In this article, I’ll share my first-hand experiences and insights on the top 10 things every real estate investor should know about tax liens. So, let’s dive in!

1. What is a Tax Lien?

A tax lien is a legal claim by the government on a property due to the owner’s unpaid property taxes. When property taxes go unpaid, the local government can sell the tax lien to investors in the form of a tax lien certificate. This allows the government to collect the owed taxes while providing investors with an opportunity to earn interest on their investment.

2. How Tax Lien Investing Works

When you invest in a tax lien certificate, you’re essentially paying the delinquent property taxes on behalf of the property owner. In return, you receive the right to collect interest on the amount you paid, along with the potential to acquire the property if the owner fails to redeem the lien. The interest rate and redemption period vary by state, so it’s crucial to research local laws and regulations before investing.

3. The Auction Process

Tax lien certificates are typically sold at public auctions, either in-person or online. There are two main types of auctions: bid-down interest and premium bid. In a bid-down interest auction, investors bid on the interest rate they’re willing to accept, with the lowest bidder winning the lien. In a premium bid auction, investors bid on the amount they’re willing to pay above the lien amount, with the highest bidder winning the lien.

4. The Importance of Due Diligence

Before investing in a tax lien, it’s essential to conduct thorough due diligence on the property and the lien itself. This includes researching the property’s value, condition, and title history, as well as understanding the local tax lien laws and redemption process. Failure to do proper due diligence can result in investing in a lien with little to no chance of profitability.

5. The Risks of Tax Lien Investing

While tax lien investing can be profitable, it’s not without risks. Some of the most common risks include:

  • Property owner bankruptcy, which can delay or eliminate your ability to collect interest or acquire the property
  • Property damage or environmental issues, which can reduce the property’s value and your potential return on investment
  • Competition from other investors, which can drive up the cost of liens and reduce potential profits

It’s essential to weigh these risks against the potential rewards before investing in tax liens.

6. The Redemption Process

If the property owner pays their delinquent taxes within the redemption period, they can redeem the tax lien. In this case, you’ll receive your initial investment plus any accrued interest. However, if the owner fails to redeem the lien, you may have the opportunity to foreclose on the property and take ownership.

7. The Foreclosure Process

If the property owner doesn’t redeem the tax lien within the redemption period, you can initiate the foreclosure process to acquire the property. This process can be time-consuming and costly, so it’s essential to factor in these expenses when evaluating the potential profitability of a tax lien investment.

8. Tax Lien Investing Strategies

There are several strategies for investing in tax liens, including:

  • Focusing on properties with high equity, which increases the likelihood of the owner redeeming the lien or the property being worth more than the lien amount
  • Targeting properties in areas with strong real estate markets, which can increase the potential for property appreciation and higher returns
  • Investing in multiple liens to diversify your portfolio and spread out the risk

Developing a clear strategy can help you maximize your returns and minimize your risks when investing in tax liens.

9. The Role of Tax Lien Servicers

Some investors choose to work with tax lien servicers, who can help manage the due diligence, bidding, and redemption processes on your behalf. While this can save you time and effort, it’s essential to carefully vet any servicer you work with and understand the fees they charge for their services.

10. The Importance of Patience and Persistence

Successful tax lien investing requires patience and persistence. It can take time to find the right liens, conduct due diligence, and navigate the auction process. Additionally, the redemption and foreclosure processes can be lengthy and unpredictable. Being prepared for these challenges and staying committed to your investment strategy can help you achieve long-term success in tax lien investing.


1. Are tax liens a good investment?

Tax liens can be a good investment for those who are willing to conduct thorough due diligence, understand the risks, and have patience throughout the process. They offer the potential for high returns through interest payments and property acquisition, but also come with risks such as property owner bankruptcy and property damage.

2. How do I find tax lien properties?

Tax lien properties can be found through local government websites, tax lien auction platforms, and third-party services that provide tax lien listings. It’s essential to research each property and lien thoroughly before investing.

3. Can I lose money investing in tax liens?

Yes, it’s possible to lose money investing in tax liens if the property owner declares bankruptcy, the property is damaged or has environmental issues, or if the cost of the lien and foreclosure process exceeds the property’s value. Conducting thorough due diligence and developing a clear investment strategy can help minimize these risks.


In conclusion, tax lien investing can be a profitable venture for real estate investors who are willing to put in the time and effort to conduct thorough due diligence, understand the risks, and navigate the complex auction, redemption, and foreclosure processes. By keeping these 10 essential insights in mind, you can make informed decisions and maximize your chances of success in the world of tax lien investing.

Kurby Team

The Kurby Content Team is a diverse group of seasoned real estate experts dedicated to providing insightful, reliable information for homebuyers, real estate investors, and real estate agents. With backgrounds ranging from real estate brokerage, property investment, and residential home buying, our team combines decades of experience with a passion for demystifying the real estate world. We at Kurby are committed to helping you make informed, successful real estate decisions. Whether you're a first-time homebuyer, a seasoned investor, or a real estate professional, count on the Kurby Content Team to deliver the most relevant, actionable real estate content you need.