County tax sale not always a deal

RBC I Yard sales, back to school sales, 50 percent off sales, after Christmas sales. We all think of bargains when we see these advertised. The county tax sale is a bit different—it’s “buyer beware.”
Each year, most ad valorem tax payments for “real property” have been received by the county by mid-June. Yet every year there are a few accounts that remain unpaid at the end of September. In an effort to achieve full collection of taxes due, accounts which remain unpaid are offered to bidders at the county’s tax lien sale.
The county’s tax lien sale provides an opportunity for people, not necessarily Rio Blanco County citizens, to bid on delinquent accounts. Bidders cannot be a county employee or a close relative of a county employee. Successful purchasers of a delinquent account receive interest on the amount of the unpaid taxes from the date of the tax sale to the date the property owner is able to pay the taxes.  The State Banking Commission determines the rate of return with the annual interest rate set at nine points above the federal discount rate as of Sept. 1. Currently the interest rate is 10 percent per annum.
The county treasurer sends lists of unpaid taxes to our local newspaper for publication. The unpaid tax list is published for three consecutive weeks before the tax sale date. Once the publication process begins it cannot be changed. If a property owner pays his taxes during the publication process, the property is deleted on a posted listing in the treasurer’s office and is not offered at the tax sale.
On the day of the tax sale, all bidding is done in person in the county treasurer’s office. The Rio Blanco County tax sale is an auction with the minimum opening bid equal to the unpaid tax amount published in the newspaper. The highest bidder is issued a certificate of purchase. Potential purchasers should be aware that any amounts bid in excess of the unpaid taxes do not have to be repaid by the property owner if he later redeems his property.
It is important to understand that the process does not stop at the tax sale and the property owner has not lost his ownership rights. For the next three years, the successful bidder must pay each year’s taxes, known as endorsing. After three years of endorsing, the successful bidder is eligible to apply for a treasurer’s deed. This process requires a $300 deposit to initiate. The property owner can redeem his property up to the time a treasurer’s deed is issued by paying all back taxes, accrued interest, advertising costs and treasurer’s fees.
Remember, “buyer beware”? Tax sale purchasers should be aware of possible pitfalls. Sometimes the real property offered at the tax sale has undesirable characteristics. For example, the property may be landlocked with no public access, or it may have a prior tax lien sale on it. Tax sale purchasers should do their research prior to the tax sale.
This year’s tax sale will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 10 a.m. in the Rio Blanco County Treasurer’s Office. A delinquent owner can pay his taxes up to 9 a.m. on the day of the sale to prevent the sale of delinquent taxes on his property.