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Clearing up Confusion: Understanding Title for Tax Delinquent Properties

Rachel Seidensticker
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Introduction to Title on Tax Delinquent Properties 

Acquiring a tax delinquent property means winning a bid from the county – but it’s possible to get unwanted title issues along the way. 

Going into an auction without title information or professional help puts you at risk of inheriting a municipal lien, or even worse a $50,000 lawsuit.

Fortunately, legal professionals and title firms dedicate their work to solving title issues and interpreting confusing title data. 

So, while a trip down to your county recorder’s office might help you understand the property title you’re interested in, there’s more to what can go wrong with titles. 

Here’s what’s important to know.

Title Issues to be Aware of with Tax Delinquent Properties

The word ‘title’ might sound familiar in real estate because it’s relevant in any traditional home purchase. In those situations, the buyer pays a title insurance company to research and address encumbrances against the property. 

That way, the buyer owns the house free and clear after closing.

However, titling is not the same smooth process with tax delinquent properties. 

First, ensuring due process when acquiring the title is crucial. 

Federal law guarantees citizens due process, including those with ownership of or interest in the tax delinquent property. Because municipal auction processes don’t always satisfy this law, it’s best to work with a title company or attorney. 

This way, you can initiate a quiet title process that fulfills due process.

Second, purchasing a tax delinquent property means receiving any liens and penalties attached to the property. 

For instance, the previous owner may have left a mountain of trash sitting in their yard for months, causing the county to place a lien against the home that accumulated interest. 

This type of scenario can add thousands of dollars to your investment cost.

Remember, if a tax delinquent property has gone through foreclosure, it’s not a guarantee that the process removes every lien. 

For example, procedures in Florida sometimes mean the mortgage lender doesn’t receive notice about the foreclosure. In that case, you could end up buying the property and the mortgage if you go into an auction unawares. 

Because you don’t get title insurance on tax deeds, there’s no recourse if you acquire a mortgage for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What are the different types of title searches?

Title searches can help you identify tax delinquent properties with the least encumbrances. Here are the details on how title search companies can clear the way for profitable investments.

Profile of the Different Title Search Types

Title search types depend on the company offering them. The industry has no official set of searches, so you’ll find varying products among different firms. 

For example, a title company might offer a search going five years back in the house’s history as its cheapest option. 

If you’re looking at a 40-year-old home, you might need a search that goes back for decades.

In addition, you’ll find searches that pull up the three most recent owners. In this case, if you know the home only had one owner, you don’t need to pay more a more thorough search.

In summary, it’s best to tailor your title search to the home you’re buying. 

For example, a new house without much history doesn’t necessarily need a report from ownership activity 30 years ago. 

On the other hand, a home built in the 1950s has an extensive history that could include liens and mortgages you don’t want on your hands.

Benefits of Each Title Search Type

A title search examines the history of documents the county has recorded against the property. These documents can provide critical information on encumbrances against the property. For example, you might find a mechanic’s lien or a tax lien filed at the county level.

Additionally, a title search will reveal the property’s ownership history. 

The line of owners and the way each became the owner ties into the status of the title. For instance, a mortgage could be left over from two owners ago without the county knowing.

It's also possible to search county records yourself without paying a title search company. 

Doing so involves going in person to your county recorder and reviewing the documents for the correct parcel. Fortunately, an increasing number of counties are uploading this information online, making your search quicker. 

That said, an online review means trusting the county abstractor who sorted and uploaded the documents did their job without any mistakes.

Cons of Each Title Search Type

Remember, a lien can exist without municipal knowledge, and title searches can miss the details as well. For example, if the company searches the title by owner, it might not find the mechanic’s lien a contractor placed against the home two decades ago. 

On the other hand, searches through the county can miss privately held liens, such as mortgages. 

So, no title search is perfect, but it will pull up key components for you to consider.

Additionally, the quality of your county records research is only as good as your understanding of the documents. 

If you can’t make sense of what you’re looking at, you won’t glean what you need from the search. Plus, county recorders can make mistakes and provide information on a different parcel. Failing to recognize this when sifting through documents can give you an entirely wrong idea about the home you want to purchase. 

Instead, you can pay a title company to interpret the data correctly.

Where to do a Property Title Search

You can do a property title search on your county recorder’s website or in person at the recorder’s office. These two options mean you’re either looking at uploaded documents online or personally leafing through documents pertaining to property titles. An easier and more conventional way is to buy a title search. For instance, one title search is included Research membership if you choose the Pro or Premier tier, which will allow you to save your precious time!

How to do a Property Title Search

Conducting a property title search means investigating the information regarding the property yourself or paying a title search company. 

As outlined above, a self-performed search means perusing files at your county recorder’s office or visiting their website. 

While doing the job yourself means is free, you might incur a mistake costing you thousands of dollars.

On the other hand, paying a few hundred dollars to a title search company means getting a professional service that can head off an expensive lawsuit. 

So, it’s best to turn the job over to a company if you’re not confident in your ability to decipher title-related documentation.

How to do a Property Title Search
How to do a Property Title Search

Recommendations for Mitigating Title Dangers

If you’re concerned about your ability to master the details of title risks, that’s what title companies are for. 

They’ll perform a thorough search about the property title and provide a summary of past owners, interested parties, and liens.

In addition, if you’re confused about the summary from the title company, you can hire a title attorney to perform a search or analyze the information you’ve compiled. 

They’ll give you expert insight into the information and help you understand how secure the title is. 

Remember, the more expensive your investment, the more worthwhile it is to hire help for a title search. Buying a half-million-dollar property with title issues can incur penalties and lawsuits costing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Title Search Software to Make Your Job Easy

You can find title search software online to aid your investing efforts. 

For example, directly from the Tax Sale Resources Research platform you can order a title search with one click.

Easiest to Use Title Search Software
Title Search Software for Tax Sale Investors

The title search is completed by DataTrace, so the search is powered by the strongest data foundation available. This integration allows Tax Sale Resources to offer the easiest to use title search software on the market. 

One title search is included with every Pro and Premier Research tier sign-up, so you will be able to try before you buy. 

Also, here is an example Title Search, so you can see what our end product looks like. 

Understanding the Quiet Title Process for Tax Delinquent Properties

You may have heard of the quiet title process occurring for certain tax delinquent properties.

The quiet title process doesn’t resemble the standard title process; instead, it’s a type of lawsuit. 

Quiet title is necessary when your county’s title process doesn’t satisfy the due process stipulations of the Constitution (an attorney or title insurer can help you determine if your county fits this case).

So, your attorney or title company will implement the foreclosure process even if the property already went through it. This time, the process will be comprehensive by notifying all interested parties of the property’s status. 

It doesn’t eliminate municipal liens or HOA fines, but it fulfills your legal obligation to previous owners and interested parties. 

In addition, the quiet title process doesn’t clear the title. Instead, it makes the title insurable. This way, you can cover the title from lawsuits or financial conflicts in the future.

The quiet title process duration depends on your state. For example, states like Florida usually take a couple of months for quiet title to complete. 

On the other hand, some states have a nine-month process for quiet titles. An attorney can give you the details on how quiet titles are handled in your state.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Here are questions investors often have on titles for tax delinquent properties:

Can I Resell the Tax Deed Before Getting the Quiet Title?

Yes, you can resell the tax deed before getting the quiet title, but you can’t with title insurance. In addition, you can sell a quitclaim deed, although finding a title company to facilitate the transaction will be challenging.

How Much Does a Quiet Title Action Cost?

The cost for a quiet title action varies by state, but the average nationwide cost is $3,500 to $4,000 per property. However, issues with the title can quickly inflate that price. For example, your quiet title might become a $30,000 quiet title lawsuit. 

How Much Does a Quiet Title Action Cost
Average Nationwide Quiet Title Action Cost


Titles are complex and potentially costly elements of tax delinquent properties. Because legal issues abound with properties with prior owners and long histories, it’s best to work with an attorney or title company to help with the details. 

Tax Sale Resources can refer you to your county recorder’s office if you want to search the title information yourself. Otherwise, analyzing title data is best left to the professionals to avoid costly mistakes and lawsuits.

Author - Rachel Seidensticker
Rachel Seidensticker
Chief Operations Officer
In the Tax Sale Industry Since 2010
Rachel is responsible for managing and overseeing the daily operations of Tax Sale Resources, which produces data for approximately 8,000 nationwide tax sales yearly. She started in the tax sale industry originally as an investor but decided to change course and team up with her brother (Brian Seidensticker) to build Tax Sale Resources quickly thereafter.

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