Everything You Need to Know About Sheriff's Sales

There are two types of Sheriff's Sales.  The Judicial Mortgage Foreclosure Sales and the Tax Sales. The Tax Sales include Tax Lien, Tax Collection, and Tax Delinquent Sales.

Tax Sales

When the owner of a property located in the City of Philadelphia fails to make a payment arrangement on municipal debt levied on his/her property, that property may be sold at the Tax Sheriff's Sale to allow the City to collect on that unpaid debt.  These debts can include outstanding water and sewer bills, School District of Philadelphia taxes, and city property taxes.  The sales also provide individuals the opportunity bid on and become the owner of tax delinquent properties, thereby acquiring lots, houses, or commercial and industrial buildings.

Judicial Mortgage Foreclosure Sale

The Judicial Mortgage Foreclosure Sherriff’s Sale is the process by which mortgage companies and other financial institutions seek to collect debts owed to them, particularly in instances where a homeowner defaults on his/her mortgage payments.  As with Tax Sales, Foreclosure Sales allow individuals the opportunity to bid on properties and become homeowners.

How much will a property cost?

The lowest bid can be offered is $500 and each successive bid must be made in $100 increments.  The highest bidder will win the property and must be prepared to give 10% deposit in cash, or with a certified check or money order made out to the "Sheriff of Philadelphia."  The remaining balance must be paid within 30 days of the sale.  An extension of time to pay the balance can be granted by the Sheriff upon written request.

The second bidder

If you have been out-bid on a property, you can have your name recorded as the second bidder.  If the highest bidder does not pay the balance in 30 days, the second bidder shall be granted the same 30 limit to make settlement with the Sheriff on his/her second bid. The second bidder must be registered on any property immediately after it is sold.  The second bidder must present the same amount of deposit that the highest bidder delivers to the Sheriff at the stage.  An extension of time under no circumstances will be granted or honored by the Sheriff whenever a second bid is registered at the sale.

How do I learn which properties are to be sold?

The properties which are certified to be sold at Sheriff's Sale are advertised in the Legal Intelligencer and on a rotating basis in the Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia Tribune for three successive weeks each month preceding the sale.  You can also view a list of properties to be sold at Sheriff's Sale online here.

When and where do the Philadelphia Sheriff's Sales take place?

The Judicial Foreclosure Sale is held on the first Tuesday of each month.  There are also three different Tax Sales conducted each month. Click here for a list of all Sheriff's Sales currently scheduled.  All sales will take place at 10:00 AM at the First District AME Plaza located at 3801 Market Street on the 3rd Floor.

How are the properties identified before and during the sale?

Each property has an identification number called the writ number, which is listed in the newspaper and on our online listing before the property address.  This number is used together with the property address when the property is offered for sale.  The sale is conducted by an auctioneer who calls out each party by writ number and address.

IMPORTANT: Notice of owner's Right of Redemption after a Tax Delinquent Sale

Even if you win a bid on a Tax Sale property, within nine months of the acknowledgement of the deed, the owner of record can go to court and get permission to recover the property by paying all back taxes and the money paid by the winning bidder.  This is called the Right of Redemption.  Therefore, if purchase a property through Delinquent Tax Sheriff's Sale and invest funds to improve the property in the first year, beware that those funds can be lost.  The right of Redemption is only applicable if the property scheduled for Tax Sale is determined to be owner occupied 90 days prior to the sale.  If the property is unoccupied or abandoned, there is no Right of Redemption.

The Right of Redemption does not apply to any property sold at the Mortgage Foreclosure Sheriff's Sale.  One way to protect yourself is to contact the City's Department of Licenses and Inspections to determine what outstanding code violations, if any, exist in the property.

Any work done to correct these violations must be reimbursed to you if the original owner reclaims the property during the Right of Redemption period.  Therefore, make sure you get and keep detailed and accurate receipts for code related renovations.

What should you do before you bid

  • Take a close look.  It is strongly recommended that persons planning to bid at the sales make a site visit to the property prior to the sale.  Many persons have bidded on vacant lots thinking that they were bidding on a property containing residential structures.  The City is not authorized to permit or arrange for entry into properties listed for sheriff's sales.
  • In order to buy a property from any tax sale, you must be tax compliant. Proof of compliance must be provided at the time of final settlement. You can print a certificate of compliance by visiting the website of the City Revenue Department.  Once at the site, you will have to accept the terms of the website, then choose "Sheriff Sale" as the compliance type.  You will then need to enter the name and tax id number of the person or entity purchasing the property.  If the person or entity is tax compliant, you will have an opportunity to print out a compliance certificate.  Print this certificate out and bring it with you when you pay final balance of sale.
  • Make sure you have a form of government issued identification. You will need to present this ID at the sale in order to bid.
  • Consider the rehab costs.  While there are some bargains to be had at Sheriff's Sales, potential bidders, especially those seeking residential properties, are cautioned that the condition of properties may vary widely.
  • City loans and grants for income eligible owner occupants are available for Sheriff's Sale properties only after the Right of Redemption period has expired.  The City has set this policy to ensure that its limited resources do not benefit original owners.

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