These owners need your help selling a home.
So many times, the vultures come in and take advantage of them.
People say nothing in life is certain except death and taxes.
They usually omit the third truth: wherever you find death and taxes, you'll find someone trying to profit from them.
Such is the case with property taxes. Find owners falling behind on payments, and you will find the vulture investors circling nearby.
In Washington DC, a 76-year-old retired Marine sergeant lost his home over a $134 property tax bill. U.S. Marshalls escorted Bennie out of the home he’d bought with hard-earned cash over 20 years ago.
Vulture investors swooped in quickly and sold his $197,000 house for a huge profit.
You can find similar examples of vulture investors swooping in and snatching up homes in markets all across the country.
Obviously, municipalities need a way to pressure people to pay up on property taxes, but as with many good intentions, someone always steps in and takes it to an unfortunate extreme.
Take the 65-year-old man who lost his home of 40 years while he was in a hospice fighting cancer.
Or a 95-year-old Maryland woman who lost her family home over a $44.79 tax debt.
By far the most pathetic of all the stories I have seen is that of a widow who lost her home over $6.30 that snowballed into her home being sold at a tax auction.
Start looking at your local market, and you might be shocked at what you find.
Here's a local example that is so extreme, it's hard to believe.
Vulture investors swooped in and snatched this property up for $230,000. Only nine months later, it was resold for the whopping price of $1,375,000.
And no, before you ask, they did not put anywhere near 1.1 million dollars into remodeling or renovation.
Ridiculous stories like these spotlight the need for local real estate agents to step up and fill the gap.
Countless homeowners have fallen prey to these vulture investors. Any business deserves to make a profit, but not at the blatant expense and hurt of others.
Good folks in your area need your help. In exchange for helping them realize the full value of their homes, you land priced to move listings.
Now THAT is a win-win for both parties!
Homeowners with past due property taxes are often forced to sell their homes.
Local governments need tax monies to operate. Municipalities have expenses to cover for operating public schools, parks, and libraries.
They need coin in their coffers to continue the business of running, maintaining, and improving the community.
Teachers, police officers, firefighters and other employees in the public sector have families to support. They won't show up and work for free.
Counties and cities need a stable stream of income to meet their payroll.
Property taxes are one way local governments collect money to meet their expenses. When a property owner does not pay their taxes, it puts a strain on the government’s budget.
Exact rules vary from place to place, but the concept remains the same.
The government gives owners a certain amount of time to pay taxes owed.
During that time, the city still needs money coming in, so they sell the "rights" to those tax bills to cover the shortage in funds.
In many cases, investors buy these tax lien notes. In order to keep the pressure on owners to pay up, tax liens are usually first in line to collect if a property is sold.
If the city or investors aren’t paid, they will auction the home for the back taxes owed.
During the time frame between a tax lien being created, and the property being sold, interest accrues on the unpaid notes.
Depending on the specifics, investors may be allowed to add on "fees and expenses" to the original tax lien total.
This is where the trouble comes, and things are taken to extremes.
Lawyers, attorneys, and tax lien holders tack on exorbitant charges for “processing and handling.”
By doing this, investors drive the costs far above the original unpaid amount. Owners find themselves fighting investors and their lawyers. More time ticks by, as the investors push to foreclose the property, and cash out.
Most sellers don’t have a lot of options, they usually are:
- Auction the home
- Sell to an investor
- Get a loan or refinance
- Work out a payment plan
House "flippers" are looking for a deal. It's rare that a quick sale offer from an investor turns out to be a fair market price.
How often do homes sell for full market value at an auction?
In most cases, people who have fallen behind on their property taxes do not have good credit. Owed back taxes are often an indicator of other financial troubles or oversights.
Some tax collectors allow owners to work out a payment plan.
Some jurisdictions will even reduce or forgive property taxes in the worst of hardship situations.
Options vary in every market, and owners will need to contact their local tax office for details.
This is a Win-Win opportunity.
You want more priced to move listings? Here's your opportunity. These owners need your help getting the home sold for a fair market price.
Step in, help them get their home sold AND get a great listing at the same time.
Offer them alternatives as well, and you will be cementing your position as a helping source they can turn to for support.
In real estate, relationships are almost as important as the business itself.
Here's a chance for you to capitalize on your network. Build a portfolio of resources for tax lien owners.
Reach out to local attorneys, lawyers, and finance officers. Pull together some online resources.
Give owners a free guide or handbook that lays out their options. This can be a great resource tool for you as well.
Even better, it can serve a dual purpose as an excellent marketing hook. Offer it in your letters, and on your website as a free giveaway or download.
Here is a simple template you can modify to use in your market:
We’ll get into more details shortly, but first, you need some leads!
How to find Tax Lien leads in your market:
Find all of the homeowners in your area that are delinquent on their property taxes.
There are a few ways to get this list:
Your Local Tax Collecter
You can usually get a list of people with tax liens from your local tax collector’s office. Contact the local office and ask for tax lien information.
Most of the time you can find details on their website. If not, they may be able to provide you a copy of a recent list published in the newspaper.
Once you have a list of tax lien properties, you will need to search for the owner’s name and mailing address.
Match the tax lien properties with your local property appraiser’s website to find the owners.
Obviously, this is a bit labor intensive, but pulling leads organically has a few benefits.
One, you know you're getting current, accurate information.
Second, you can sift through the leads as you work.
Save the good properties, and discard undesirable ones. No sense in going after listings you do not want anyhow.
As a side note, this is an excellent task to outsource.
If all the resources you need are available online, go through the process yourself once, and get familiar with it. Then, using a screen capture tool like Jing or Snagit, record a quick video of the steps.
After that, it's as simple as sharing the "how to" video with a virtual assistant or a freelancer. Depending on the size of your market, have them check for new leads on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis.
All that's left for you to do is reach out to the leads they've collected, and land some of those win-win listings!
Here is a video on how I found these leads through my local website:
Other Online Sources
Do a quick Google search, and you will see this is a hot niche, with many companies selling tax lien leads, in all different packages.
Many “coaches” and “magic bullet dealers” tout tax lien leads as a quick way to land the big bucks.
However, just like the unscrupulous investors preying on owners, online lead sources are not created equal.
One good rule of thumb is this: look for companies that specialize specifically in tax leads. Find a big online lead clearinghouse, and you'll wind up with stale or recycled leads.
Always find out up front how exclusive your leads will be.
And don't just ask if they are exclusive to you; find out if there is a time frame.
Many internet lead providers will only hold exclusivity for 2-4 weeks, but they certainly won't volunteer that information unless you hold their feet to the fire.
Reach out to local tax professionals.
Build a relationship with CPAs, tax attorneys, etc who would also benefit from these leads.
You may find an excellent source, or you may find an eager recipient. Either way, you are both looking to help the same people, so why not work together?
Smart agents know how to solve problems. They know other professionals who can do the same.
Real estate transactions offer many opportunities to resolve problems. True for almost any case, it’s a critical talent to have in handling tax lien transactions.
Even if you do NOT "team up" with other professionals, take time to meet people in tax-related businesses.
The relationships you forge can be very beneficial. Any chance you have to add new names to your list of recommended professionals and referral options is a good one.
You just bring that much more value to an owner struggling to resolve a knotty tax issue!
Many of these homes are easy to list.
Heirs who have inherited the home either forgot or did not bother to pay property taxes.
The home is just sitting there with a tax bill accumulating and nothing being done about the situation.
These are slam-dunk listings. If you can reach the heirs, you will win the listing almost every time.
The owners moved and left the house unoccupied.
Since they no longer live there, nobody cares about the house enough to handle the property taxes.
These houses make even better listings.
With no occupants, it is easy to stage the home, and schedule listings any time of day.
It's typically an easy decision for the owners too. Having already moved, choosing to sell is much less emotional, and much more of a business decision.
People living in the home, and truly having a tough time making ends meet.
Help them get the home sold, so they can regroup and move on.
Reach out with an offer to help!
You’ve gathered a list of leads. Now what?
Depending on your list size, it is often a good idea to separate leads into several batches.
Group leads together based on listing desirability, type of listing (as noted above), proximity to a foreclosure date, etc.
Let’s assume you’ve sorted out as you went along, or took some time to skim through the list (especially if you purchased the leads).
The next step is contacting the owners.
For best results, tailor your contact methods to match the type of lead.
Property owners with an impending foreclosure have limited time to act and should be approached with more urgency than recent filings.
You could cold call these leads, and offer to help them recoup equity that would be lost in foreclosure.
However, while tax issues are public, they are also personal. It is highly likely “quick fixers” with a hard-nosed sales pitch bombarded them already.
Unless you have a thick skin, and enjoy cold calling, it’s likely to be a frustrating task.
Mailing a letter is typically the best approach.
Remember the tax guide? Use it here.
Send a letter or a book offering a free guide to help them resolve their tax issues.
Match the urgency of your letter with the group of leads you are mailing.
For example, you could start out saying: "Don’t let ‘flippers’ snatch your home because of past due property taxes!”
Move on to explain why investors prey on people with unpaid taxes. Offer them a copy of your free guide.
Letters to owners who have only recently gone delinquent can take a softer tone, they have more time to react.
You could say: “Don’t get ripped off, read this before agreeing to sell your home.”
Point out the options available to resolve unpaid property taxes quickly, before they turn into a foreclosure situation.
Delivery of the guide is an important step in converting interested leads into listings. You should include ALL your contact info in the letters.
Ask them to call you with ANY questions, but don’t set yourself up for phone tag if they just want to request a free report.
Using a lead capture method (i.e. opt-in form) is best. This allows recipients of your letters to fill out a simple request form online anytime.
You’ll have their contact info to respond and follow up.
Delivering the report in person is one way to guarantee an audience with an owner.
However, once you’ve created a sense of urgency, you risk irritating the owners by making them wait for you to hand deliver the report.
The easiest delivery is a simple email with the pdf attached or a link to download the report online.
Because people rely on, and expect, so many different forms of communication, we also include options to call or text in our letters.
Our internal lead capture software delivers a link to the request form (opt-in form) via return text or voicemail. In addition, we receive an instant lead notification, for speedy follow-up.
Do not just send a report, and wait. The goal of your effort is converting leads into listing opportunities!
So pick up the phone and CALL. Confirm their request.
Let them know you are emailing their report right away. Set up an in-person appointment while you’re on the phone.
If they aren’t willing to commit to a face to face meeting yet, set clear expectations on your follow up.
Let them know you will check in, and when and how. Then DO IT. Call back when you said you would. Email as promised.
Show them that you are on top of things, and professional. Build trust and demonstrate to them that you are the best possible choice to handle the home sale.
Work through the full list once. Start back at the top, and repeat next month.
To speed things up the first time, you could send every lead an “urgent” letter. Month 2 can be a softer letter you write later.
The most important thing is to start. The longer you wait, the less time you have to help the urgent leads.
What to expect from leads you contact in this niche.
Group A: People who are ready to sell NOW.
A small percentage of people you contact will be ready to take action and sell immediately.
Make them a "hard" offer. Give them a reason and a way to contact you in response right away.
Often simply including your contact information with a call to action (Thinking of selling? Get a free market evaluation of your home.) is enough to trigger a response from leads in Group A.
Group B: People who want to sell, but are not ready to take action yet.
These folks fall into a much broader category.
They are undecided owners. It is important to give them a “soft” offer, and a reason to initiate contact.
Once you have met, you can start a dialogue about their situation, and cover options they have to resolve the unpaid taxes.
This is where offering a free report is effective.
Group C: People who do NOT want to sell, but do want to resolve their tax issues.
People in this third category have potential to become good leads, just at some point in the future.
Offer them a solution, or information and guidance to experts who can help them solve the problem.
As with any lead, solving the problem they face wins respect. You will be positioning yourself as a helpful resource.
Keep in touch, and they will turn to you when their thoughts turn to selling.
Group D: People who do not want help of any kind.
Unfortunately, some people find themselves in tax troubles because of bad decisions.
They may refuse to face the problem altogether. Some may already feel they have a solution, and the situation is under control.
Again, because tax and money issues are very personal, you may get responses from unhappy owners.
Do not get discouraged if someone is rude or mean about you contacting them. Mark them on your list as a do NOT mail.
Don’t get into a fight, just apologize or ignore them and move on. Remember, there are a lot of good people who need your help.
Don’t let a jerk stop you from helping them.
Now get out there and get the listing!
As you help owners working through tax issues, you will get more familiar with each type of lead.
One thing you'll find is that it's not over until it's over! Mailing a letter each month to leads who are not ready to make a move is a simple way to keep in touch.
For the cost of a stamp, you can let them know you are available to help when they are ready to tackle their tax troubles.
Stats show that most owners WILL take action to resolve overdue tax issues within the first year.
Keep in touch, offer options that speak to owners in each lead category, and you will greatly increase the chance it will be YOUR phone that rings when they decide to sell.
Won't be long before you have your own version of that old adage about death and taxes.
Only three things certain in life: death, taxes, and win-win listings from helping owners being forced to sell!
Until next time, be smart, and work smarter!
What if you left a book that you were the author of with these owners?
Books have a huge perceived value. They don’t get thrown away.
You could even have a custom property tax book with your face on it.
They can get tucked away somewhere, but most people aren’t going to toss them in the trash. They’re worth something, and they’re worth something to the author’s name.
Do this and you will position yourself as the authority in your market. When you give away your book, it will separate you from your competition.
That’s how a Smart Agent thinks!
Want to get a free sample of the book that will get you more listings? Click the link below.
Joe Nickelson is a real estate professional dedicated to helping home buyers and sellers achieve their dreams of owning property, and helping real estate agents stop using the sometimes-vicious tactics that weigh on their consciences. He believes that the Smart Agents books will, quite literally, change people’s lives for the better. Check out his full bio here!