What is Unclaimed Property?

36 Replies

While doing some research and following links to things that sounded interesting, I found a link called Unclaimed Property. If it is what I think it is and based off of what it looks like (orphaned property waiting for a new owner, now owned by the state), it could be very lucrative (VERY good deals to be found), however... it looks too good to be true.

What is it, and is there anything to my assumptions above? Thanks in advance.

Unclaimed property is property that someone is due but may not know about so they have never made an effort to get it. For example; someone may inherit money that they do not know about.

In real estate if a foreclosure sells for more than the bank is owned the surplus goes to the homeowner. If the home owner doesn't know they are due the money or never makes a claim to get it, it becomes "unclaimed property"

Unclaimed proerty is usualy money not real estate.

Ok. Cool. Thanks Ned. Then are the 2 addresses you see for the property and the previous owner (or something to that effect)?

I have no idea.

:-). Np

@Dante Nava

Are you talking about something like this? When you click a county at bottom of page it shows the lists. With two addresses


Its not actual land type property. usually it's money in some form like tax refunds or shares of stock ,insurance check ,something owed to someone

@Ned Carey

I had one personally were there were on a loan we had 9k in escrow funds in our loan TAX's and some prepaids.. I did not realize this when I sold then sometime down the track ( I had a PI trying to chase down one of my clients) and he was so good I had him do some work for me in the course of chasing one of my defaulted borrowers he checked the state of Oregon and said I had unclaimed money.. I checked and sure enough 9k been sitting there about 3 years.. In 5 years if it goes unclaimed it Escheats to the state.

Same with overages in property tax sales.

@Jay Hinrichs thanks, I should check my states unclaimed funds site. Maybe I have some escrow money from closings I've lost track of.

Abandoned property laws are state specific. They can be cash or jewelry from a safe deposit box, stocks, dormant bank accounts, surplus funds from foreclosures (in NJ there is only unclaimed property/surplus funds from judicial-mortgage foreclosures NOT tax foreclosures). Depending on your state will determine what actually happens to the Unclaimed Property. The process of moving the property from the ownership of the owner to the state's possession (not necessarily 'ownership') is called Escheatment. And again, states have their own escheatment laws. In NJ, once property is escheated to the state it remains in their possession until claimed by the owner or heirs/next of kin. The state never takes ownership BUT does benefit from the interest as they are not entitled to pay interest to anyone who claims the unclaimed property.

Be careful of the Unclaimed Property sites you come across. Most are privately owned and many charge a fee for information that is free from the state agency that controls the unclaimed property.

I thought a little about actual unclaimed land .

Where could it be ? ,maybe along the borders of two states or country's there are little sections where it's not sure who controls it. one instance would be where a river was the boundary but over the years it moved

Or here in Oklahoma I own a few acres in one county and there is a section of land between me and a neighbor both our property's have been surveyed so we know its there and also know of others just like it

Its never been on the tax roll and its not claimed by a tribe as Indian land

I guess it would be called abandoned land

And someone could use The Law of Adverse Possession

@Ned Carey

agreed if you have closed a lot of properties that have had escrow impounds I would definitely check.. In Oregon the unclaimed department is like in the Department of Transportation some place you would never check. they count on taking this money after 5 years its free to them and easy to manage.. Someone just mails it in to them and they put it in the bank and probably make interest on it.

@Account Closed

Interesting concept of land that was never on the tax rolls.. I have never run into that. from my experience the land is either privately owned and tax'd or owned by a non profit and not taxed.. or owned by state or federal agencies.. The no mans land out west here is Usually BLM lands.

I was hoping to interject something profound, however, Ibrahim, Ned and Jay have pretty well said it. So, I will be redundant instead.

Much of unclaimed property consists of personal property like small residuals from bank or stock accounts, insurance policies, deposits and proceeds from rentals, such as storage lockers, to name but a few sources.

Where real money is generated is from surplus and over bids, also known as excess funds. These are the result of owners losing the real property through mortgage or trust deed loan foreclosure or property tax sales, in states where the latter occurs.

Occasionally, some real estate is sold to satisfy a debt. That's all most foreclosures are. When bidders pay more than the underlying debt, the overage is subject to claims by junior lien holders (creditors) in the order that their liens are recorded. Anything beyond that inures to the record owner, typically as of the day before the sale.

Similarly, in States where properties are sold after a period of time to satisfy back property taxes, the overages -or surplus- monies may be claimed by lien holder creditors and ultimately record owners.

Now, don't think that you've just discovered the Holy Grail of real estate. There are plenty of local State laws, and an awful lot of moving parts. And, you'd better be comfortable with both courthouse records and occasionally appearing in court. Oh, and by the way, you won't be the only guy or gal soliciting former owners.

Lastly, there is the sad story of Joe Kaiser. He got so good at this play that he found himself on the WA State AG's radar and you can Google how it all turned out. Last time I talked to Joe, things were beyond ugly.

Aside from the cautionary tale, this is yet another way that real estate just keeps on providing fruit from my labor.

@Rick H.

Rick don't tell anyone but when I had my storage facility I never sent the money to the state I could never figure out where to send it so it just stayed in our account waiting for our dead beat tenant to claim. it.

I quite liked the storage units they were on the Columbia river and I rented mainly to those that lived on house boats. I then condo ized them and sold them off to my tenants. storage condo's are not new concept but rare and they can be good if you get the right spot.

@Rick H.

well aware of Mr. Kaiser being a PDX resident and doing a bunch of bizz in WA.. he make the guy on duck dynasty look like a ***** cat vis a vi I am going to do it my way

@Jay Hinrichs

Sounds crazy but its the truth.

All of Oklahoma was Indian territory and it became a state in 1907

I know of two areas I was looking in a few years ago I was shocked to find that the newest plat is from 1907 :) and there were Indian allotments for the two different tribes in that county some of the boundry lines are blurred

So the county's map shows those on the tax roll, then some of the church land is a blank ,some of the gov land is a blank on the map

some of the map is marked as Indian land,and some is blank that may be Indian land .

But they are unsure which tribe because of a river and creek that moved over time.

And back in the day ,some tribal members sold land off in bits and pieces to someone not indian (before you had to go to the federal court to transfer)

I would guess some didn't want it on the tax rolls(why pay taxes on it?)

So it was took off the Indian land and never put on tax roll

I don't really know how often this happened

So some of the land may not show up anywhere :)

@Account Closed

this is interesting on the west coast we have plenty of indian res's but I have not personally dealt with any land that was close to them.

It does sound a lot like Ajedo land in Mexico though.. were the Mexican Indians have claim to a huge amount of mexico but try to figure out who really owns it and who really has the right to convey title.

We are currently working on a piece of Ajedo land on Cerritos beach. But for every deal that is done down there someone loses it all.

In my county properties without owners are titled 'Unknown'. These parcels are usually tidelands or where old surveys state; corner at the old maple tree, follow the creek, etc., and/or measured by links and chains then are corrected with GPS surveys. Some parcels may have a long skinny strip of land bordering one side and labeled 'Unknown'.

The county sometimes allows purchase of half the thickness of the strip leaving the other half available to the neighbors. If the neighbors decline then the whole strip is available. It's not cheap and your property taxes will go up. Usually the area is already fenced and being used, tax free. I have an eleven foot wide strip over 300 feet long on one side of my land, 'Unknown'.

Other pieces would be very old maps usually created by the state or county laying out roads and neighborhoods in places that weren't built until the last fifty years or so. The old road layouts were abandoned usually due to the width being to narrow (11'). Drive thru the neighborhood and you would never know, Unknown strips are everywhere, the lines are on the plat maps.

@? metes in bounds in Old logging country when the tree got harvested and or the creek moved there went the legal description.

once the stump rots or someone moved the big rock

This has become a pretty interesting post! Those strips you guys are talking about are different from easements right?

@Jay Hinrichs , @Account Closed


Thanks Jay for the metes and bounds, It was on the tip of my tongue and I couldn't remember it exactly and didn't want to type something stupid. :)

@Lisa Miller

You said: " Usually the area is already fenced and being used, tax free. I have an eleven foot wide strip over 300 feet long on one side of my land, "

I bought a property in an area that was a town around the civil war

this prop at first glance looked a little large for its size ,but it was all fenced with chain link .

I liked that it had a new well house to match the new deep well.

From the civil war to present they had moved the road quite a bit and the new well and all the fence along road wasn't exactly mine. :) and a 50 ft strip down one side wasn't either. :)

@Dante Nava I keep getting solicitations for a money-making opportunity (I never buy any of these, but I learn something from some of them) called Hooked on Overages which allegedly teaches you how to find foreclosed homeowners who don't know they are owed an overage from when their property was sold in a tax sale. The program somehow teaches you to claim the money on their behalf, get it in your name, then have them sign an agreement turning over anywhere from 40% to 50% of the unclaimed funds to you. It sounded really sleazy to me and I don't see how anyone gets away with this.

@Kirsten Walstedt

The percentage depends on the state. an example from where I live

If you are contacted by someone other than the OST Unclaimed Property Division, the maximum fee they can charge you for helping you claim your money is 25%.

So if they had no idea they have money coming to them I am sure some are happy to get 75% of it.

I don't want any percentage from anyone . I check it out once in awhile. To get anything owed to us, if I run across a someones name I let them know about it.

In the past I did tell a friend who had money coming to him(from quite a few sources ) that "I felt a 90/10 split seemed fair,the 90% going to me ! " :)

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