More on Buying Tax Delinquent Properties

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PHOTO: TONIFLAP/FOTOLIA
In 1972, tax delinquent properties and abandoned land were available for cheap in Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

Dear MOTHER EARTH NEWS,

According to the Minnesota Volunteer Magazine, there are
over one million acres of tax delinquent properties (wooded, not
waterfront) available in St. Louis County, Minnesota alone, to say nothing of nearby Itasca, Cass, and Aitkin
counties. This land usually sells for $5 to $15 an acre, and for only a little more if it’s covered with
marketable timber or adjoins a road.

To buy such acreage, you must make at least a 30% down
payment and pay 4% interest on the balance. The
first taxes due on land purchased now would be 1972 taxes
(payable in 1973).
 

For further details, contact the land commissioner in the
county that interests you most (he also has information on
private land for sale). An especially good man to get in
touch with, we found, is Land Commissioner William Marshall
in Grand Rapids (Itasca County), Minnesota.

I haven’t seen any of this land yet, but I’m on my
way.

Susie Sandmann
Sleepy Eye, Minn.

Dear MOTHER EARTH NEWS,

Here’s some information on back tax sales (for
Pennsylvania, but probably more-or-less applicable for
other states, too) which is still a good way to get
inexpensive land.

The counties in my state handle all these tax sales and
group them into two classes. The first is a “tax claim
sale” (usually held twice a year), which is an auction with
the minimum bid being the amount of back taxes due. The new
owner is responsible for all liens, assessments, mortgages
— in short, debts on the property. It’s a good idea to
have a professional title search made on land bought at one
of these auctions.

Acreage may also be purchased at what is called “judicial
sales.” These auctions are also held twice a year and a
minimum bid of $1.00 is required. The properties offered
have no debts on them and are sold free and clear. A
do-it-yourself title search should be sufficient for one of
these farms.

I’ve seen several 26-acre parcels go for around $80 and
larger tracts for $15 to $30 an acre at these sales. The
only problem is that the best of these properties are
sometimes unmapped, so you may not know exactly where they
are.

John S. Hileman, Jr.
Harrisburg, Pa.