State plans tax sales

By submitted, 03/5/20 8:46 AM

LITTLE ROCK – Like auctions? Want to invest in land? Enjoy researching old records?

Have we got a deal for you!

For seven months each year, buyers have the opportunity to purchase tax-delinquent lands at public auctions across Arkansas. Bidding begins at the amount of taxes, penalties and interest owed – often just a few hundred dollars.

It can be a great investment opportunity. Or it can be a money pit. That’s where the research comes in.

The Commissioner of State Lands is tasked with disposition of tax-delinquent real estate. County tax collectors certify to the state when a property’s taxes are delinquent by two years. The COSL holds that property for two more years while attempting to collect the delinquent taxes. We send certified notices to any “interested party” – those with a connection to the land – that we can locate.

In the fifth year of delinquency, we offer the property at public auction. We hold one auction in each county each year; this year, we are offering property that has been delinquent since 2015.

If a property sells at auction, the owner has 10 business days to redeem it by paying the delinquent amount. If that happens, we refund the buyer’s money. (All winning bids must be paid in full at the auction, with the first $100 of each parcel paid in cash.) If it doesn’t happen, we issue a limited warranty deed to the buyer.

The owner also has 90 days to file litigation against the COSL office to overturn the sale. For example, if the owner or an interested party did not receive notification of the sale, they can file litigation. If it is found that we did not comply with notice requirements, the sale would be overturned, and we would refund the buyer’s money.

At the end of the 90-day litigation period, the buyer can work with a title company or real estate attorney to quiet the title. This is necessary if the buyer plans to purchase title insurance or borrow money against the property.

It’s important to prepare before going to a tax auction. Research begins on our website,, in the Public Auction Catalog. There, you’ll find the full auction schedule and the list of available parcels.

The first thing you’ll see is the sale number. At auctions, we don’t announce addresses or parcel numbers, so be sure to note the sale number of the property you’re interested in.

The legal description and parcel number will help you locate the individual parcel. Research this to verify the property actually exists – technological or typographical errors do happen. Double-check that the property is where and what you’re interested in buying. Most counties are mapped, so clicking the parcel number will help you see its physical location.

Next, look at the interested parties listed in the catalog. Some properties show no names, while others have several. Individuals’ names are usually the owner or the owner’s heirs/relatives. If a bank is listed, the property may be mortgaged. If the IRS, DF&A or other government agency is listed, those agencies have liens against the property. In that case, do more research: sometimes those liens attach to the property, so the buyer would assume responsibility for the liens. (And sometimes they don’t. That’s why you need to research.) Also, although we perform a title search, we do not guarantee that the list in our catalog is exhaustive.

By now, you’re probably thinking, “There’s too much risk here. It’s not worth it.” Wait! Look a couple more columns over, under taxes. Less than $650 for two acres? Under $325 for a rental house on a small lot? $1,900 for a billboard?

Of course, that’s the starting point for bidding – and for prime opportunities, bidding will be fierce.  We do accept mail-in bids, but in that case, bidding begins at the amount of the mailed offer. We do not auction online. And property may be redeemed at any point up to 10 business days after the auction. You can track this on our website – if a property is redeemed, we remove it from the catalog with an “entry cancelled” notation. If it’s redeemed after auction, that will be noted too.

Now maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, that’s not bad. What an investment! I can do this!”

And you can. We encourage you to check out the website to see if this is the right opportunity for you.