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JAMES W. ELLIOTT

Attorney at Law

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FAQ
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 
 
 
Q:  When does a property become eligible for judicial sale?
A:  Virginia law specifically governs the judicial sale process (Article 4 of Chapter 39, Title 58.1 of the Code of Virginia, Code Sections 58.1-3965 et. seq.).  Tax parcels are eligible for judicial sale in most cases when any taxes on [such] real estate are delinquent on December 31 following the second anniversary of the date on which such taxes become due.
 
Q:  Can a purchaser obtain ownership of real estate by paying the delinquent taxes?
A:  Current Virginia law provides no process by which a buyer can obtain any "tax certificate", "tax deed" or other title to real estate by paying off the delinquent taxes owed on the property.
 
Q:  Can a purchaser expect to buy real estate through a judicial sale for a fraction of its actual value?
A:  Under Virginia law, the Circuit Court is required to insure that the property is sold for a fair and reasonable price.  Accordingly, the law requires the Court to determine the fair market value of the property as to "shock the conscience of the Court."  The Treasurer reserves the right to reject any bid that does not cover all taxes due and costs of the sale.
 
Q:  What does an advertisement entitled "NOTICE OF JUDICIAL SALE OF REAL PROPERTY" mean?
A:  The law requires an initial advertisement before judicial sale proceedings are commenced.  This ad is not intended to list or advertise the properties as being for sale.  Rather, this Notice is intended to provide a notice to the owners of the listed properties of the Treasurer's intention to commence judicial sale proceedings and to encourage these owners to redeem the properties.  In reality, most properties listed in these initial newspaper advertisements are never sold due to the owner or lien holder (e.g. a bank or mortgage company) redeeming the property prior to sale.  Typically, attorneys will list another advertisement in the newspaper announcing the sale by public auction.  This ad is entitled "COMMISSIONERS SALE OF VALUABLE REAL ESTATE".
 
Q:  Is absentee bidding allowed?
A:  No.  Anyone intending to bid on property must attend the auction or have a representative attend on their behalf.
 
Q:  Where are the auctions held?
A:  Typically, auctions are held in front of the Circuit Court of the City or County where the taxes are due.  You may contact the office to inquire about the location of any auction.
 
Q:  Can I get priority notice of the sale?
A:  Yes.  Priority notice of all auctions conducted by James W. Elliott is available by subscribing to our mailing list.  You can choose to receive notifications by U. S. Mail or E-Mail.  A subscription form is available for download from the "Mailing List" page of this website.
 
Q:  If the tax sale includes a house or building, does the buyer own the contents?
A:  For real estate tax auctions, the purchaser obtains only what is being taxed.  As a result, the purchaser is bidding on the land and building only.  Contents of the buildings, personal property and automobiles on the land are not included in the sale.
 
Q:  What happens if I decide to withdraw my bid after the conclusion of the auction?
A:  Your bid is considered a legal and binding contract enforceable by Court proceedings.  You will not be released from your bid without approval from the Circuit Court.
 
Q:  How soon after the auction will I receive a deed?
A:  In some cases, a deed can be issued in about two weeks.  In more complex cases, it may take thirty to forty-five days before a deed can be issued.
 
Q:  What does it cost to record my deed?
A:  The cost to record a Special Commissioner's Deed starts around $70.00 and increases based on the sale price or assessment, whichever is greater.
 
Q:  How should I take title to the property I purchase?
A:  You have the following choices:
      1.  As tenants in common
           - Each individual owns an equal share of the property without the benefit of the right of survivorship.
           - Commonly used by unrelated persons.
      2. As joint tenants
           - Each individual owns an equal share with the right of survivorship.
           - Commonly used by family members, (father and son) (brother and sister)
      3.  As tenants by the entirety
           - For property purchased by married couples only.
           - Includes the right of survivorship.
     4.  As a corporation, limited liability company, or partnership.