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John Hamilton
Posts: 2826
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Joined: 10 years ago

I likely asked this question here years ago, but I wanted to get some fresh insight from forum users. 

There is a landlocked wooded parcel adjoining my property, about 1.5 acres. My property is on the north side of the outlined wooded parcel shown below. 


On all other sides it adjoins small subdivision lots, in their back yards. My side is the only one with open access. 

This was leftover from a subdivision of a larger property, but it was never included on any subdivision plans. The company that owned it went out of business in the 1970's, and no taxes have been paid on it since then. The county sold it (along with thousands of other tax delinquent parcels) to a company that tries to collect the back taxes. However, that is just one of three taxing bodies (municipal, school district, and county). I did contact the company that owns the back taxes, they said they would be willing to put it up for sheriff's sale, not even sure how that would work. 

I don't think adverse possession (which would be 20 (or 21?) years) is an option. The school district has by far the highest tax millage, so the back taxes could be quite substantial. However, since there is no other access, I doubt they will ever be able to recoup that, maybe they would be happy with some fraction? 

In any case, there is no deed, other than the overall deed for the larger parcel that was subdivided. No deed book or page is listed on the county web site. What is done in a case like this? 

I tried to convince my lawyer daughter to study real estate law when she was in law school, but they never listen...

Just looking for some ideas and insight...

18 Replies
Posts: 509
500+ posts
Joined: 10 years ago

First let me say I know very little about this, but my understanding relating to such tax sales in Tennessee is that the property owner of record, and their heirs or assigns, would have a certain period of time, perhaps a year after your winning bid, which goes to satisfy the tax lien that is on the property, to redeem the property by paying the taxes themselves, and thus not losing their property to a tax lien foreclosure.  In your case, the prospect for development seems nil because any other adjoiner could only access the tract by running a street through their own property which would also go through their own dwelling.  I say that because there is no apparent undeveloped right of way through any of the adjacent subdivisions.

If the laws there work anything like Tennessee's, it would appear that the county has already sold the tax lien to the company you're talking about.  They obviously hope to profit from their purchase but you have what would seem to be a more viable interest in the parcel than anyone else.  With the slim prospect of another interested party, the current owner of the tax liens might be willing to simply recover what they are out for this otherwise unsaleable piece of land.

Scott Ellis
Posts: 1193
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I would call it the residue tract of whatever the tract was called, I would try to buy it from the company or Sheriff  auction, looks like several other tracts share a boundary with it, and any of those Lot owners could buy the tract.


Octa-Frequency GNSS Receiver, Quad Constellations

Posts: 730
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Joined: 9 years ago

Looks like a development opportunity. What is the trend in your area? Is your land developable, and will the wooded area add to that developable area?  If so then it is time to join forces with a developer type and move or position yourself for long term opportunity to make money.  My 2 cents, Jp

Posts: 6400
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I know little about such matters, much less in PA, but my first research would be to learn the difference between the county selling the lien versus selling the property.  I didn't know the lien could be sold to bill collectors. Why would anyone who cares to keep the property pay them rather than having paid the county (unless Cousin Luigi is the collector)?

I usually hear about sheriff sales, where I think the price could be less than the back taxes and any taxes in excess of the sale price are written off.  And there is always a redemption period.

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