Help me outwit a scam...or at least stop the loss!

27 Replies

Hi.  Thanks for reading.   My dad was scammed and I now own the problem...can you help me with ideas of what to do???      10 years ago my dad bought 10 acres of open land for $10k in upstate NY.  It's got underbrush and a few trees, and its got frontage on a busy 2-lane road.   He may not have known it was 'wetland' and cannot be used for building...or maybe he did.  He passed away 5 years ago.  My brother was taking care of things (he is not business-minded at all), and one day I thought to ask him:   Hey, what about that old we have it? what are the taxes?  Well, we do, and taxes are about $1k per year!

So here's a non-useable property that I've paid over $10k in taxes on top of the $10k cost...and it has no sale potential, according to a new real estate agent I just found.  (She wanted to help and to list it, until she found it was 'wetland.'   

So how can I let go or dispossess this property and in some way recover some money?    BTW I don't live in NY so i cannot really manage any dealings that take a local presence.    Can I donate it, but to who and why would they want it?  Can I call it a Wildlife Refuge and take a tax break?   if so do you know the details of how to do it?     

I appreciate all suggestions, but pls keep it constructive and positive.  I am very distraught that my father was scammed and my family has lost $20,000 or so.   thank you.

@Josh MADONNA depending on where it is ( you'd have to do a little research in it) you could sell it as "recreational land". People will buy it for hunting on, or for dirt biking, etc... there is a market for unbuildable land, you could call a realtor in the area to find out if that option is possible. Good luck!

Hi Jason, thanks.  Its in upstate NY as mentioned.   I believe 10 acres is too small for that (hunters must need more for stray bullets, right?) plus it's heavy scrub brush with a few inches water, while there seems to be miles of forest to either side.  I did connect with a realtor who said (1) it's unuseable due to the water and (2) so small in value it's hardly with a realtor's time/effort to sell it.     So here's a question:  how do I give up ownership so that I don't have to pay taxes anymore?

Does anyone know if there are legal consequences if I stop paying the taxes so that the state can take it away ?  will I be liable for penalties and back taxes in the future?   Ughhh...

in most states just stop paying tax's and call it a day.. or donate it to a land trust if they will take it.. 

some environmental groups will take on wet lands and give you a tax write off.

Is it all wetland or is any of it treed or could someone place a mobile home on it ? My husbands family owns undeveloped land in upstate NY and it was made  a tree farm which lowers the taxes, how much I don't know.  Other then that you can try to give it to the town.  I think there are some people  who might use it recreationally if it  is wetlands but not actually wet but if it is on a major road that might not work. 

You can definitely do any of the above, but there is another option.

When we were developing land into a residential neighborhood a few years ago, part of the land was a wetland and could not be used. We got around this by paying someone else that has a wetland a fee, and they registered their land in the Wetland database to compensate for the wetland that we destroyed.

Therefore, if you find a developer with wetland on their property that needs to build on it, you can offer to register your land as a wetland and make some money from them. There are probably lots of rules you need to follow, but it may be worth it. Contact your states Department of Environmental Management. You could also probably just sell the land to them so they control completely. Good luck!

I'd say put it on the market. 10 acres even wetlands does have value. what someone decides to use it for isnt really your issue. Just let them know it exists. Maybe a photographer, hunters for sure, nature buffs who want their own swamp. You could stop paying the taxes and they will just take it, but may as well get something for it.

Wow, everyone, thanks!!!

Neil - wonderful! helpful story/info, and I'll try Dept Env Mgmt if I can find it.  That's great!

Colleen - it has very few trees; couldn't call it a tree farm.  Might have to give-away but where to start?  who to call?

Ned - I'd need some guidance on where to find a suitable auction site...ideas?

Sam - how do I find a charity willing to take this weird donation?  I get ~20 letters/month asking for cash though :-)

Mike - I like your optimism so while I try other ideas I'll also get it listed.

Try the Nature Conservancy.  If they do not want it, they may know another agency that would accept it as a tax write off.  Or use is as mitigation wetlands to offset someone else building on their wetland--they buy it from you for that purpose and they donate it to a wetland bank.

Where in upstate NY is it? I've been causally looking for recreational land for quad riding and whatnot. I might be interested if it's useable for that purpose. Feel free to PM me. 

You don't say where it is in upstate NY.

In addition to the local town, there are over 50 land trusts in NY State.  Check out this list, I think you can also see it on a map on the LTA website.  Find the closest one.

If you have questions, ask.  I know many of them through my work.

PS. I probably wouldn't bother with TNC.  This is a small parcel that should probably be handled by a local Land trust or conservation commission..(some small towns have ConsComs).


It will be valuable to someone! 10 acres is a lot, and people want land for various reasons.    .... don't say there isn't a buyer until the market tells you.

Why not owner finance it?   Have someone put at least $1K down to cover the taxes, and owner finance it for say $20-30K? 

@Josh MADONNA One thing you did not mention, is how much of the property is on the busy two-lane Highway? It may be possible to put up Billboards and rent for advertisement if there is enough of a footprint. There is a positive to inheriting the property. The fact that it was inherited means that the initial expense of taxes (while your father held it) and purchase price was it has already been accounted for. Selling it for anything would reduce the amount of losses you take in the future. Thinking of the initial 10k and 10k in taxes as your expense may make you prone to hold the property longer than necessary. If the property was inherited by means of a will, then it is likely that the capital gains or losses will be assessed at the property's value from the time of inheritance. This is assuming you have had it appraised at the time of inheritance. If you sell it for a loss, it might provide a write off. Otherwise, any improvements (such as billboards) and taxes are the only costs out of pocket for this investment, should you choose to keep it. As far as selling it for recreational use, don't discount it before looking into it. Guns aren't the only way to hunt, and there are plenty of rednecks itching for a mud hole. One man's trash... I wouldn't simply stop paying taxes, however. The government is known for getting their money, and the IRS desn't Need to take you to court to garnish your wages or withhold any future tax refunds.

If you don't want to try to sell it don't just stop paying the taxes and letting the government have it before you evaluate the other options for donating.  You might be able to get tax deduction if you go through the process to donate the property to city, county or state.  Review with your CPA, attorney and the locality.  There is a process for this, it's not a new thing.

Thank you all so much, esp Shane(!) for the colleague connection if it happens...and Joshua if your recco not to stop paying taxes is accurate.   Anyone have direct experience with simply not paying the taxes?

Answers: It's in Accord, NY which is 20 mi west of New Paltz, and 2 hr north of Manhattan.    it has 1000 ft frontage but there are billboards frequently on that road already and I don't know the # for any billboard co.

All ideas are welcome but to keep email traffic down, pls only serious constructive comments need be posted.   Really appreciate these ideas, I just need specific directions though such as how to find neighbor's name/phone or billboard company or developer who needs wetland phone number or cell site guy, etc.   As I said I live 2500 miles away.    Thanks again you guys are really a great crowd!  It's my first experience in a forum that is very positive!