Houston Real Estate Bargains

Houston, Texas and in particular Harris County, is a good place to pick up cheap real estate. Currently, single-family residences are running between 30 and 40 percent under what their normal retail value should be. The retail housing market is good for buyers right now, but still very risky since nobody knows how far it is going to fall before it is over or when it will end.

The very best deals are in the wholesale market. If you want to find a deal in Houston, then tax lien foreclosures present the best opportunity. All Harris County foreclosures are auctioned at the Harris County Family Law Center, 1115 Congress Street in downtown Houston on the first Tuesday of every month from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tax lien foreclosures as well as other types of foreclosures, such as HOA (home owner’s association) foreclosures and bank foreclosures are auctioned off at the same location at the same time.

You might want to take a friend to help you with the bidding if you are bidding on more than one property because many auctions take place simultaneously. Also, beware of the sharks. Harris County foreclosures are so popular that some people fly in from out of state to snatch up bargains every month. There is a circle of insiders at the Harris County auction who sometimes work together and at other times work against each other. If you have any previous experience bidding at any kind of auction, you will have an advantage.

Bank and other foreclosures are sometimes great deals, but buyer beware. You are purchasing the properties “as is” and you receive not only the rights, but the responsibilities of the previous owner.

The tax lien foreclosures are arguably preferable to other types of foreclosures for a couple of reasons. When you buy a tax lien foreclosure (there are not tax lien certificates in Texas), all past debts on the property are expunged as long as all lien holders were properly notified. Beware: It has happened that lien holders were not properly notified or that information was improperly recorded. You will want to take a look at the abstract of the property. You can do this at the Clerk’s Office of the Family Law Center.

You should receive a clean title to a tax lien foreclosure after two years, as long as the previous owner does not invoke his right of redemption by paying you the amount of taxes owed times a large percentage for each of those two years.

If you are concerned about the previous owner invoking redemption rights there are two courses of action that you can take. One is to purchase the rights from the previous owner. The second is simply to wait until the redemption period ends and make no improvements on the land that could result in monetary losses for you.

You will have to register before you can bid. You can avoid some confusion on the day of the auction by registering ahead of time at the Harris County Tax Office website, below. You will be required to make your purchase in cash or money orders at the site of the auction.

Be an informed buyer because once you’ve bought, it is yours, including liabilities. Do your research on the properties by checking the property values in the area and making a physical assessment. If you are viewing a lot of properties in the area it’s a good idea to get a GPS or a computer mapping program like DeLorme that will let you map a route from one location to another.

You can find more information about tax lien foreclosures from the two private attorney’s offices that handle this class of foreclosure. The properties to be foreclosed on are listed at the following sites:

Linebarger Goggan Blair Graham & Sampson LLP http://www.publicans.com/home.htm

Perdue Brandon Fielder Collins and Mott LLP http://www.pbfcm.com

Bank and other foreclosures are available through www.foreclosehouston.com

Register to bid at: http://www.hctax.net/taxsaleprocedures/default.asp

Research properties on line at the Harris County Appraisal District website: http://www.hctax.net/taxsaleprocedures/default.asp