Thorough research on all potential purchases is essential. It is important that you complete this research before the day of the sale. There are definite risks when buying tax foreclosure and tax-title properties. Even County-owned surplus sales might present risks. Buying property without doing complete research can result in unwanted and costly surprises.
Warning: Even the most diligent research efforts may not uncover all difficulties or unexpected problems.
The Best Place to Begin
The Treasurer's Office will provide as much information as it has available. Title reports, maps, appraisal sheets, and tax information, are some items that will help you in your research. The Treasurer's Office is only a starting point though. Sometimes the information available is minimal. It is up to the buyer to pursue other resources. Maps, and some other parcel information, may be found by searching for the parcel on our website. Once you have searched, and located the parcel in question, various tabs near the top of the screen will be available to you. These tabs will provide information from our Assessor /Treasurer database.
To receive a CD of all title reports for the current year foreclosure sale, print the Request for CD (PDF), complete it, deliver it to the Treasurer's Office with the appropriate fee ($5 if picked up, $6 if mailed).
If you're ready for the auction, proceed to our Property Auction Process page for additional information on the process.
Building, Zoning, Land Use - Questions on building restrictions, zoning, use restrictions and controls, and others should be reviewed before any purchase. City and County engineering, building and codes, and planning departments are good places to get information.
Title Insurance - Some title companies will not provide title insurance for up to ten years from the date of sale. Policies vary with each title company. If you are planning to build, title insurance may be important to you.
Assessments - Many parcels have local improvements or special assessments for which payment will be due. Check to find what districts or associations service the parcel you are researching. Some assessments are collected by the Treasurer's Office and some are not. To avoid expensive surprises, become aware of these before the sale.
Local Ordinances - Some properties may have easements, use restrictions, zoning or other land use controls. We sell all properties subject to applicable city or county ordinances. The existence of these is the buyer's responsibility to detect.
Community Association Dues - We sell all properties subject to restrictive covenants, if any allowing for imposition of community association fees.
Easements - All easements that are 3 years and older, are unaffected by tax foreclosure. Easements are listed on the title search and are on record at the Whatcom County Auditor's Office.
Please be advised: These parcels are privately owned until the conclusion of the auction. Any site inspection of the listed parcels must be done so with the authorization of the current parcel owner. Anyone inspecting these parcels from anywhere other than the public right-of-way does so without the authorization of Whatcom County. Please respect the property rights of the parcel owners.
Physical Inspection - We strongly recommend that you visit the property sites you are researching. Look at exactly what is being offered for sale. Is there access to the parcel? Can you accurately identify property boundaries? Are neighbors using the parcel? These are a few of the questions that you may want to ask.
Improvements - If there are improvements on the parcel, you should find out if they go with the land and how they are currently being used.