FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Has anything changed this year?

There are several important changes to our auction procedures.

1. Cash will no longer be accepted! Purchases totaling less than $1,000.00 including taxes and fees can be paid in full by certified funds, personal check, money order, or Visa/MasterCard/Discover credit cards. Totals of $1,000.00 or more will require a portion of the total to be paid with certified funds. Certified funds are a form of payment which is guaranteed. These include a certified check or cashier's check which you can obtain from your local bank. (Money Orders are NOT certified funds) Certified funds requirements are as follows:

Sales of $1,000.00 or more but less than $50,000.00 require the first $1,000.00 to be paid by certified funds. Sales of $50,000.00 or more require the first $5,000.00 to be paid by certified funds.

The remaining balance can be paid by any of the payment methods described above.

2. If you have delinquent property taxes or civil fines in the county in which you are attempting to purchase property, we are now forbidden by statute to sell you property. This may also apply if you are purchasing at a multi-county sale in which you are delinquent or hold fines in any of the participating counties. All buyers will need to sign a notarized affidavit affirming that they are eligible to purchase property. Providing false information and signing the affidavit while you have delinquent taxes or fines could result in felony perjury charges.

3. There is now a limit on the number of lots that can be purchased by a single buyer during the second round, no-reserve auctions.

4. For the Muskegon auction only, we will require a $1,000.00 deposit before the start of the auction, from anyone who intends to bid on property. The other auctions will require nothing up front in order to bid.

What is a land auction?

In the state of Michigan, there are certain situations where a county will take possession of a piece of property. In the case of our auctions, the counties have foreclosed on vacant lots, houses, or commercial buildings due to non-payment of property taxes. The law states that after a sufficient period of unpaid property taxes, a county may begin the process of foreclosure. All parties with legal interest are contacted and given opportunity to rectify the situation and redeem the property. If the taxes remain unpaid and the foreclosure process can be completed, the county becomes the sole owner and is allowed to sell the property at auction. Throughout the state, we hold auctions (first and second round) for the individual counties. The goal of these auctions is for the county to recoup some of the revenue that was lost through non-payment of taxes.

How do land auctions work?

During registration, all bidders will be required to check-in with the clerks where they will be given a bidder card and salebook. For online bidders your username will act as their bidder number. Registration requires a valid state issued photo ID or passport from anyone who will be placing a bid. After everyone is checked in, the auctioneer will give a rules speech, explaining all details of how the auction process. When bidding begins, the lots for sale are auctioned off in the order in which they appear in the salebook. Winning bidders may begin to check out any time after they have won and they must pay the full amount owed within 30 minutes of the auction's completion.

Who is eligible to purchase property?

We work hard to make sure these auctions are open and accessible to everyone. However, there are several reasons that an individual may not be permitted to purchase land at our auctions. As of the 2015 season, we cannot, by law, sell to anyone who currently has delinquent property taxes or civil fines in the county from which they are attempting to purchase property. Under this new law, individuals may face felony prosecution. In addition, many treasurers will choose not to accept bids from individuals that are delinquent in other counties at the auction. We also keep a list of individuals who have been banned from auctions either by the Auctioneer or the county Treasurer. This would include past participants who did not pay for property they bid on or caused a sale to be cancelled for other reasons. These restrictions extend to not only bidders, but also the payor, a deed party or an assisting bidder.

How do I register for the auction?

For in person bidders, when you arrive at the auction site at the advertised registration time our clerks will be able to check you in and get you the materials you will need to bid. All that is required is a valid photo ID and a phone number. Let the clerks know if you have pre-registered online and they will be able to get you checked in faster.

For online bidders, you will need to create a profile with your contact information and provide us with a valid credit card number, which will be pre-authorized for the sale. You can read the detailed instructions and register here.

How do I bid?

For in person bidders, you will register with our staff and receive a bidder card, which will function as your bidding paddle. When the property you intend to bid on comes up, just like in any live auction, raising your card will place a bid at the next price increment. If the auctioneer has announced you as the winner there is no need to wait until the end of the auction; you may pay and leave as soon as you are ready.

For online bidders, our website allows you to place a proxy bid or to bid live along with the onsite participants. While live bidding you will see the active lot number and the current price. With the use of the “Place Bid” button, you will let the auctioneer know to place your bid at the next price increment.

Should I bid online or in person?

We strongly recommend that if able, you come to the auction and bid in person. All online live bidding is subject to Internet and technology issues on either end. Because of the potential for these issues, we cannot guarantee that live bids placed online will be taken by the auctioneer. If for some reason, you cannot attend the auction, we provide a video feed and an instant messaging system to contact the staff member running the bid console. Some county’s auctions will not feature any online bidding. Make sure you find out well in advance whether or not you will be able to bid online and plan accordingly.

How do I prepare and what do I bring to the auction?

Before you arrive at one of our auctions, we recommend you pre-register on our website. This will save you time during the auction and will give you more time to get the necessary deeding information in order. You may also want to record the four digit lot numbers for the properties on which you intend to bid. During the auction, we will be identifying the property by these lot numbers.

Whether you pre-register or not, when you get to the auction you will need to check-in with one of our clerks. All you need to bring for this is a valid photo ID and the clerks will get you the materials needed for bidding.

Since we require winning bidders to pay in full within 30 minutes if the auction ending, it is strongly recommended that you have your payment prepared ahead of time. This means bringing a certified check to be used as the deposit and having your checkbook and/or credit card with you.

If you are going to list an LLC, a Corporation, or a Trust on the deed, we will need a complete list of all members or shareholders involved in the organization. For example: if you plan to buy property as an LLC, you must also provide us with the names and contact information for all of the members.

What are Certified Funds?

Certified funds are funds that have been guaranteed by a bank. These are often referred to as cashier's checks. See your local bank branch to obtain a certified cashier's check before attending the sale.

Please make the check payable to you. If you win at the auction, you can endorse the check over to us. If you don't win, the check can be easily redeposited into your account.

Money Orders are not certified funds!

Who do I make the certified check out to?

Please make the check payable to you. If you win at the auction, you can endorse the check over to us. If you don't win, the check can be easily redeposited into your account.

What is the minimum bid?

During the first round auction the minimum bids for property are based on a formula given by state law. This minimum or opening bid is a sum of back taxes owed on the individual property, as well as any costs incurred by the county during its foreclosure. We are legally obligated to open bidding at this price and cannot under any circumstances sell it for less. In addition to back taxes that go into the minimum bid, winners will also be paying the summer tax that is normally due at some point during the fall auction season.

During the second round, there is no state mandated minimum bid for the property that did not sell during the first round. These are often referred to as no-reserve auctions. However, like in the firs round, buyers will still be paying the summer taxes.

What is a proxy bid?

Online bidders are able to enter a proxy bid before the start of an auction. This should be viewed as the maximum amount a bidder is willing to pay for a property. Placing a proxy bid will allow the computer to automatically bid for you, when necessary, up to the point that the price goes higher than your proxy amount. For example: if you enter a proxy bid for $5,000 and live bidding reaches a price of $2,500 the computer will place your bid automatically at $2,600 making you the winner at that price. If instead the live bidding had continued past your $5,000 mark, the computer would not enter a bid for you.

How and when do I pay for the property I buy?

For in person bidders, you must pay in full within 30 minutes of the end of the auction. This includes your deposit and remaining balance. We no longer will be accepting any cash. Instead, when required, a certified check will be used as a deposit. The exact form of payment depends on the purchase price of the property and is detailed below.

For sales totaling less than $1,000.00 we will not require a deposit and permit you to pay your balance by personal check, credit card, money order, certified check, or a combination.

For sales totaling between $1,000 and $50,000 we require a certified check of $1,000.00 as a deposit and the balance to be paid with personal check, credit card, money order, certified check, or a combination.

For sales totaling above $50,000 we require a certified check of $5,000.00 as a deposit and the balance to be paid with personal check, credit card, money order, certified check, or a combination.

We recommend preparing for the auction by having your bank or credit union issue a certified check in the amount that you think you will need ($1,000 or $5,000 or both). These checks should be made out to you. If you win, you can simply endorse them over to us. If you do not win, you can deposit them back into your account.

For online bidders, after the sale you receive an email detailing your options for making payment on the property.

Are there refunds?

No. We will not issue a refund on property purchased at any of our auctions. All pieces of property are sold as is. It is the buyer’s responsibility to do research, prior to the auction date, and gain a full understanding of the property they intend to purchase. However, the Treasurer alone has the right to cancel sales up to the time of the delivery of the deed. In these instances, you would receive a refund of your purchase price and other auction charges. Cancelled sales like this are very rare, but they are a measure Treasurers have had to utilize when property was sold by mistake.

Do I assume any back taxes or other costs?

Individuals who purchase parcels at our auctions are responsible for the taxes that are due and payable in the year of purchase, as well as any subsequent years. The back taxes for each property will be included in their minimum bid. In addition to the back taxes, buyers will be required to pay the current summer taxes on any property they purchase. These are the taxes that would otherwise be due in the fall, around the time of our auctions.

Buyers will also assume responsibility for remaining years of special assessments, beginning in the year of purchase. Buyers are not responsible for costs incurred by the local municipality during the year of the auction. All liens for costs of demolition, safety repairs, debris removal, or sewer or water charges are cancelled effective December 31. Special assessments levied through the year of the auction are included in the minimum bids. All bidders should contact city or township offices to determine if there are any outstanding bonded assessments for future tax years on the properties being offered.

Do I get a tax lien when I buy property from Michigan tax sales?

No, under Michigan law all buyers receive a quitclaim deed. While some other states sell tax liens at public auction, all of our properties sold in Michigan will be transferred directly to the bidder via quitclaim deed. With this foreclosure law, all previous title rights will have been extinguished and you own the property free and clear. Prior owners have no right to redeem the parcel and remove it from the deed sale.

Are there still liens on the property I buy?

Most, if not all liens will be extinguished before the time of sale. The only liens that can survive foreclosures are those filed by governmental agencies in relation to the environmental protection act. Individuals interested in parcels associated to Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) liens should contact the DEQ to discuss lien amounts that may become the responsibility of purchasers. Recorded or visible easements, right of ways and deeds, and environmental restrictions also survive the foreclosure.

In the rare event that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has not been properly noticed regarding property on which the IRS has placed a lien, such IRS liens would survive the foreclosure process.

Who can I put on the deed?

We will allow you to put anyone on the deed as long as they meet the same eligibility requirements as the bidder. We can deed directly to individuals, groups of people, LLCs, Corporations, Trusts, etc. Keep in mind; if you list an LLC, Corporation, or Trust on the deed, members and shareholders of the organization must also meet the eligibility requirements. You are welcome to put someone on the deed that is not in the room, only if you are willing to sign an affidavit and swear to their eligibility.

When do I get to take possession?

The buyer will take possession the day of the auction, immediately after they have paid for the property. However, buyers are advised to consider the time of possession before receiving the deed to be used for purposes of inspection and securing only. This includes protecting properties from the elements, installing your own locks, and taking measures to prevent trespassing. However, we strongly discourage buyers from investing any significant amount of money on improvements to the property until the delivery of the deed. Insuring the property is also recommended.

What information can you give me regarding title insurance?

Insuring tax reverted lands will often be more complicated than with property purchased in other types of sale. Some insurers are more willing to write a policy on tax reverted property than others. Upon request, we can help get you a quote and put you in touch with an agent in your area that has experience working with this type of property.

What do I do if this property has people living in it?

Any occupants of the property at the time of sale must be treated as "tenants-holding-over" (like a tenant whose lease has expired). They must be evicted by court order. Removing them by force, threat, or coercion (shutting off the utilities or changing locks) can create major legal issues. Eviction via district court proceedings is the most certain and legal method. The buyer can begin the process of a legal eviction as soon as they have won and paid for the property.

What do I do with items the previous occupants left behind?

Personal property located on tax foreclosed land or within structures situated on foreclosed land does not belong to the Treasurer and is not subject to the ownership of the buyer. Successful purchasers should investigate personal property ownership, and attempt to notify personal property owners of their rights to reclaim such property. We recommend finding information on the previous occupant and attempting to reach out to them via certified mail.

When I purchase land, do I get the mineral rights?

You will receive any and all title that the Treasurer obtains via their tax foreclosure through a quitclaim deed. If the owner of the surface rights to the property also owned the mineral rights, those will become part of your title interest. However, outstanding leaseholders of oil, gas, mineral or storage rights will maintain their interest in the property. You would be obligated to honor the balance of any remaining lease (with automatic renewals if so written) but the royalty payments would be payable to you.

If the mineral rights have been severed (split from the surface rights) and are owned by a third party, they have not been foreclosed by the Treasurer and are not included in the mineral rights conveyed to you through purchase of the property.

In either instance, the leaseholder still has the right to explore for and/or extract minerals under the terms of any outstanding agreement.

Can I split this property?

There are laws regarding dividing land in Michigan that may affect your ability to split what you buy into smaller parcels and resell them. This typically requires the approval of the local assessor, who will check to assure new splits comply with the law. This is a complicated procedure, and you should investigate it before the auction if you plan on purchasing a lot and splitting it into smaller parcels.

Due to past issues with splitting parcels, all sales will contain a reverter clause that invalidates the sale if the buyer resells a piece split from the original property with a size that does not meet zoning requirements for area or dimension to be built on. If a parcel reverts under this clause, there will be no refund of the purchase price. Treasurers may release this reverter clause under certain circumstances. For example: if a piece is sold to a neighbor and the remainder is still buildable.

Where does the money go?

Because the properties sold at auction belong to the county, the entirety of the sale price will go directly to them. Prior to the sale, the counties have used their own budget to reimburse the local tax units for the revenue lost as a result of non-payment on property taxes. Counties will then use the money from these auctions to balance their budget and refund themselves for what they first transferred to the local units.

What happens to the hold on my credit card?

When registering to bid online, the $1,000 pre-authorization on your credit is just a hold. We have not taken any money out of your account. If you do not bid or do not win any property, the hold will be released and the money should be available within 30 days. For debit card users, the length of the hold will depend on your bank.

How long will it take to get my deed?

Deeds are executed by the Treasurer within 30 days of the sale, then recorded with the Register of Deeds and mailed to you. The time required for recording and mailing varies from county-to-county but a conservative estimate would be 6-8 weeks.

How can I find these properties? Are plat maps available?

Our website provides you with the best information we have available on each piece of property. This includes a GPS link that should allow you to view the general location of a parcel on a map. For some of the properties we are able to provide an address. However, these addresses are not always accurate (we are selling the legal description and nothing else). It is important to read the legal description and verify, in person, exactly what you are buying. Additionally, plat maps can be found here, where you can search by subdivision name and county. Be sure that you find the correct block (blk) number.

Can I view the inside of this property prior to auction?

No, any attempt to enter these properties prior to the auction would be considered trespassing. However, some treasurers may be willing to open up certain lots upon request. Going into some of the properties can create liability and injury issues and is therefore often not allowed. Without permission from the county, you are not authorized to enter any properties for any reason.

Can you tell me about the condition of the structure? Or items like the well, septic and electrical system?

The properties have not been inspected for physical condition and in many instances have not even been entered by the Treasurer or our staff. The Treasurer and Auctioneer rarely have any detailed knowledge of the physical condition of these properties. They are sold as is in every respect.

Do you guarantee the address listed on the website or the property in the photo is the parcel being sold?

No. The parcels are sold only by their legal description (subdivision name and Lot number, or Metes and Bounds measured description). While every measure is taken to assure the addresses and/or photos on the website are accurate, our inspectors are not trained as surveyors. When buying property, you are relying on your own investigation and information. Do your own, thorough research. All parcels are sold as is and there are no refunds if there is a discrepancy between the legal description and what you think you bought.

What is a property bundle?

For any of our auctions, the Treasurer has the opportunity to put any of their individual properties into a bundle. Any property that is part of a bundle is no longer available individually and may only be purchased without also purchasing all other properties in the bundle. The minimum bid of a bundle will be equal to the sum of the minimum bids of all the parcels it contains.

What is an SEV?

The SEV is the "State Equalized Value", which is the local assessors estimate of 50% of the property’s value at the time it was last assessed. The SEV of parcels listed may not be a fair reflection of their current value. For this reason, we do not suggest using this figure as anything other than a rough guess. Buying parcels without seeing them in person is very risky. For example: A house that burned down or has collapsed may have had a high SEV at the time it was last accessed. However it may now be a vacant lot or a structure that needs to be demolished.