Delinquent Tax List Ridiculously Expensive!! - Help

25 Replies

Hello BP! 

I just began working with a local wholesaler in order to become more comfortable with the specifics of wholesaling in Alameda County. I wanted to be very proactive and begin bringing her leads on my own, and I figured that marketing to individuals on the local delinquent tax list would be a great place to begin, especially because most of those on the list are absentee owners or heirs who are soon to lose their property to tax foreclosure.

I contacted the Alameda Country Treasurer, and they quoted a price of $1,000 for the list and are very solid on that quote. They say that this is because this is not information the general public asks for, and they must request the list be put together by their internal IT company. It seems a bit ridiculous. I would understand a price of $500, but $1,000?! 

I really want this list. I know the returns will be wonderful with a bit of elbow grease and hard work. I can't think of any other way to obtain the list. Should I simply pay the $1,000 and consider it a worthwhile investment? How did you wholesalers out there get a hold of this list, and what do you think is a reasonable price?

Thank you everybody! Really enjoy learning through this community and the wonderful podcasts.

~ Raquel Pea

Originally posted by @JR T. :

The price for the list is $1,000. 

Only you can decide if you have what it takes to turn that list into money.

I do have what it takes, but being a full time student (broke) I need to budget some of that $1,000 towards direct mail marketing after obtaining the list, and am looking for other sources. I'm getting the feeling the county treasurer is the only source at 1K! Thanks for your words of wisdom.

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@Raquel Pea - you can look up any individual property tax bill here:

It will tell you if they are delinquent. It'll be in red and ALL CAPS. I know because when someone goes into contract and I stumble upon that, I point out to my borrower that the seller is likely to be motivated so negotiate hard based on inspection results (muahahahaha).

In theory you could just drive around looking at properties that look like no one is taking care of them, and looking up the bills to see if they are delinquent. 

There are several different lists in my state: the yearly tax sales list that comes out every year in the newspaper, the list of properties that don't get sold during the tax sale (which you are allowed to buy over the counter from the state....but the line is long), and the 5-year list from my city where they have a special program for buyers who buy blighted & abandoned property.

Chris M. Thanks for the info, Chris. I did realize that we can only view the tax info in our county property by property, but I like your idea of finding properties which are both distressed and behind on taxes. Thanks! Going to drive for dollars tomorrow.

@Anastasia Jordan I wish more counties in California would do the same as Alabama. Alameda county doesn't provide the entire list anywhere online, hence the $1,000 "labor" fee.

Have you tried visiting your local city councilman or county commissioner and telling them you are a "developer" and wanted to invest in rehabbing homes and you need information (the list) about such homes in their district. They might be able to give you the list for free.

Originally posted by @Raquel Pea :
Originally posted by @JR T.:

The price for the list is $1,000. 

Only you can decide if you have what it takes to turn that list into money.

I do have what it takes, but being a full time student (broke) I need to budget some of that $1,000 towards direct mail marketing after obtaining the list, and am looking for other sources. I'm getting the feeling the county treasurer is the only source at 1K! Thanks for your words of wisdom.

 Sounds like you don't have what it takes for this sort of list right now. Look them up manually and once you get bigger you'll see the value of getting the list into a simple format and not having to do the sweat work. In the beginning there's nothing wrong with building some sweat equity in your business.

You have been fed a line of you-know-what.  The Freedom of Information Act makes charging for that information illegal.  By law, they have to give it to you FREE.

She told you what she told you because government employees are 1) incredibly lazy and 2) like to act with authority because they work for the government.  It makes them feel important.

Go see her in person and ask her again.  When she gives you the same line, tell her to give you the form they offer for requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act.  More than likely, she will tell you that she doesn't have one. Tell her that the law entitles you to that information free, and you need to talk to the person in charge of the department.  When you get high enough up the food chain, you'll get the person that knows you are within your rights and will give you the list.

One last thing - BE INCREDIBLY POLITE AND PLAY THE VICTIM.  They have to give you the information eventually, but if you march in with an attitude, they can stall you for a long time.

Just search online for Alameda County Tax Sale.

I'm not sure if ********** handles their auctions online. Los Angeles County finally switched over in 2013. 

If you find them there, you can obtain them in Excel or PDF and download for free.

Alameda County is weird. The courts are weird and the government offices acts very "differently" than the rest of California. I've been an investor for a long time and work all 58 Counties. Alameda is very different. Be careful.

Oh, and don't think for a minute that you are likely to buy a $400,000 house for $5,000. I use the tax list(s) as a lead list to purchase before the sale.

Yeah, I just searched. BP moderators redacted the website where the list can be acquired (for free). 

Here's a better way to work these: Buy lists of properties with (3) or more years defaulted taxes and scrub those that do not meet your criteria.

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What I have done (Alabama), is look online at our GIS viewer and view neighborhoods that I'm interested in.  When you click on the property, it will give you the name and address of the owner.  Lots of times it will show out of town addresses, some even out of state.  Those are the ones I concentrate on.  Once I get a list of these properties, I'll go to our county tax site and check to see if the property tax has been paid.  I'm like you, I don't want to pay $1000 for such a list!

Thank you all for the advice! @Loch Mett and @Don Cuffy , I also believe that under the Freedom Of Information Act, the unfiltered list should be made public, free of charge. Thank you for bringing this to my attention, I am going to try what you two have advised, it is incredibly helpful! 

Hire a programmer to design a web scrapper to pull the delinquent names off of your county's tax assessor site. The only problem is that the list won't be refined. You won't know if it has equity, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. 

@Rick H. Thank you for the advice! I'm actually hoping to market to the individuals who still privately own their properties and are at risk of losing their property to tax foreclosure soon, but are not yet on the tax sale list. I have been told that once a property is foreclosed on and put up for auction / tax sale, bidding wars can seriously drive the price up, and there is a huge amount of competition. 

I totally agree that Alameda county has a "different" way of managing their real estate property information. It was a hassle even getting general property ownership information to find absentee owners, but I did it! I also am certain I won't be buying a home for 1.25% of market value, but I think that tax delinquent owners will be motivated enough to sell for a good percentage off of market value, enough to get investors jumping on an assignment of contract in such a hot market such as West Oakland. 

Thanks again! Appreciate all the answers.

@Shanequa J. I am considering doing just that. My brother is a programmer and says it is definitely doable. I will first try an FOIA request to see if I can acquire a more detailed list, but that is my second resort. Thanks!

They can absolutely charge you for the time it takes them gather the info for you and to print it out or put it into electronic format.

@Racquel you can go to the Treasurer-Tax Collector's website in Alameda CA and look at the tax-defaulted listing yourself and obtain it and copy it without paying for it.  Here is one listing

I'm down to pitch in if I can get the  list.  Pm me if interested. 

@Josh is the land auctioned at the same site as other properties, I know the website. Seeing the list of sold, there is a lot on it close to my house that I really wanted, so bummed that I missed it ;(

@Raquel Pea Any luck obtaining the list? Keep up posted.

@Rick H.  BP moderators redacted the website in a couple of your other posts as well where you mention a 3rd party website where this list can be obtained from free. Is that PropertyRadar? Can you PM me the sitename? Thanks.