Frequently Asked Questions About Online Sheriff Sales

Thank you to the thousands of people who have participated in the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office's first town hall dedicated to the transition of Sheriff Sales to an online model – if you haven't seen it yet, click here to view.

So many excellent questions were asked during the town hall about all aspects of the Sheriff Sales that we have compiled them – and the answers – all here for quick reference. If you have a question that is not included in this list, please email Public Information Officer This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and he will get an answer for you. And please join us for the next town hall on March 29, 2021, at 1 p.m. This event will feature a hands-on demonstration of how online Sheriff Sales will work.

 

How do I participate in an online sale?

To participate in a Philadelphia Sheriff’s Sale, you will need to take the following steps:

1. Visit Bid4Assets.com and register for a free account. There are no monthly fees for having an account.

2. Submit a single deposit via certified funds by wire transfer or certified check at least one week before the bidding opens for the auction. Note: If you do not win any auctions, your deposit will be refunded within 10 business days.

3. Log in to your Bid4Assets account at the hours specified for the sale you’re interested in to place your bids.

 

What is Bid4Assets.com?

Bid4Assets has been a pioneer in the online property sales market since its founding in 1999. It has provided sales services for more than 100 government agencies, including successfully launching virtual sheriff’s sales in Montgomery, Adams, Berks and Monroe counties in Pennsylvania since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The company has over 750,000 registered bidders nationwide, including more than 16,000 registered bidders in Pennsylvania.

 

How do I know these virtual sales will be safe and secure?

Bid4Assets takes security and safeguarding information very seriously and has been a federal contractor for over 20 years, meeting the federal government's standards for security and encryption.

 

How does the bidding process work in a virtual sale?

Bid4Assets utilizes an auto-bid system, meaning you can enter the maximum amount you are willing to pay for a property and the site will automatically continue bidding up to that amount on your behalf. You can also manually bid up by an auction’s increments if that is your preference.

 

How much do I need to deposit to become a bidder?

For mortgage foreclosure sales, you will need to deposit $10,000. For tax sales, you will need to deposit $1,500. There is an additional $35 processing fee on each deposit submitted.

 

Will I be able to bid from my phone or tablet?

Yes – the Bid4Assets platform has been optimized to run on a variety of devices.

 

What are the bid increments for virtual sales?

For mortgage foreclosure sales, bids must be made in increments of at least $1,000. For tax sales, they must be made in increments of at least $100.

 

Can I start bidding on a property before the auction starts?

No, you cannot bid until the auction opens. These auctions typically open at 10 a.m. and close at 1 p.m. If a bid is placed during the final five minutes of an auction, the auction will go into overtime and five more minutes must pass without another bid being placed before the auction will close.

 

What happens if I win?

If you win an auction, Bid4Assets will send you a notification via email and via alert in your account’s message center notifying you that you are the winning bidder. Once you receive this notification, you will be able to access the DeedWizard tool located on your account to access payment instructions and submit vesting information.

 

What happens if I win – but don’t pay for the property?

All Bid4Assets bids are treated as legally binding agreements. If, after winning an auction, you do not submit payment in the time allotted by that auction’s terms of sale, your account will be marked as non-performing. You will forfeit any deposit/down payment paid to the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office and you may be suspended from the site and/or prohibited from participating in future auctions.

 

What happens to the second bidder if the winner of the auction backs out of the purchase?

The second bidder would then become the default winner of the auction and would be entitled to the same claim as the first bidder previously had to the property, provided the second bidder fulfills the terms of sale.

 

How long do I have to pay for my winning bid?

Buyers must pay the balance of 10% of the purchase price plus a 10% buyer’s premium (on the total purchase price) by 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on the first business day following the auction. Buyers will have 15 calendar days from the auction date to pay the remaining balance.

 

Does my property come with a clear title, or do I have to worry about encumbrances and liens?

Please review the auction’s terms of sale for more information on the status of the title. Many foreclosures or tax foreclosures may be subject to certain types of liens.

 

Will I receive keys to the property?

No, the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office does not have keys to any properties.

 

Can I inspect the property (interior or exterior) before I bid? Does the sheriff have any information on the condition of the property?

Bidders should NOT set foot on any property prior to the auction, as that would constitute trespassing. You can only view the property from public areas such as the road or sidewalk. It is not advisable to approach occupants of a property. The Sheriff does not have any photos or information on the condition of the property.

 

If the property is occupied, what will happen when I buy the property?

You should consult with an attorney if you acquire an occupied property to understand your rights, as well as the occupants’ rights. Unless you are able to work out an agreement with the occupants, you may need to file an eviction action.

 

What is the reserve price in the foreclosure auctions?

A reserve price is a hidden amount that the bidding must reach in order to result in a third-party sale. In order to successfully purchase a foreclosure property, you must be the winning bidder AND meet the reserve price. The reserve price will be the total of the attorney’s upset price and the sheriff’s cost. The auction does not disclose the reserve price, but it will tell you whether or not the reserve price has been met.

 

When will Sheriff's Deeds be recorded?

Thirty days from the date of settlement or the auction, we get a distribution policy. If you are a person who has an interest in the property and you aren’t on the list, you have 10 days to file an exception. Once we get the list with the exceptions and the distribution policy, the recording of the deed process will start.

 

My home is listed as part of an upcoming auction – but it shouldn’t be! What can I do to get it taken off of the site?

You must contact your lender as soon as possible. Since they are the responsible party for listing your property, only their lawyer can do anything about the situation.

 

Is there any way to contest the completed sale so I can stay in my home?

You can file a Motion to Set Aside the sale before the deed is transferred to the new owner. During the filing, you can stay in your home. If your motion is denied, you will be displaced from the property according to the rule of law.

 

Is there any way for me to get my property back if it is sold at a sheriff’s sale?

Even if you win a bid on a Tax Sale property, within nine months of the acknowledgment 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 you purchase a property through Delinquent Tax Sheriff 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 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.

 

Can I recover any money from the sale of my home?

When a property is sold for more than the amount owed in foreclosure or back taxes, the owner is entitled to the excess monies. Since 2012 the Sheriff’s HART Unit has returned more than $20 million to people whose properties were sold at Sheriff Sale. There is no need to pay a finder’s fee to a third-party independent agent or attorney, who can charge between 15 and 30% of the recovered funds. If your home/property was sold at a Sheriff Sale due to foreclosure or back taxes and the final price was more than the amount owed, you are the rightful recipient of a refund of the excess monies paid for the property.

 

If you are bidding on multiple properties, do you need to send pay a deposit for each bid+ fee?

No, you do not. Your deposit covers all properties being sold on that particular date.

 

What is the difference between tax-delinquent and tax lien sales?

Tax delinquent sales are the sales where the City and County of Philadelphia are going after persons who owe money and who are delinquent on their taxes. Tax lien sales are tax-delinquent properties that have gotten older and have been sold to the attorneys and the attorneys are now selling them.

 

How can I look up tax liens?

You can use the Recorder of Deeds and Prothonotary’s Office for this.

 

When will sales be posted?

They will be posted monthly.

 

What is the buyer’s premium on properties?

It is 1.5% on mortgage foreclosure properties and 10% with a $100 minimum on tax sale properties.

 

When my bid exceeds $10K the rules say I have to pay the difference the day after auction. How is it possible to do it in one day via wire transfer or mailing a certified check?

It is strongly encouraged that you do this by wire transfer because of the timing. The rest of the payment can be made by check since you have 15 days for this.

 

I don’t have internet access. Can I bid the old-fashioned way?

Bid4Assets has a paper bid packet. Contact their customer service team and they will send you all the information necessary for you to be able to bid on properties in a specific auction.

 

Is there a fee for the paper bidding?

There is no fee for paper bidding.

 

After the pandemic is over will the Sheriff Sales go back to live events?

Sheriff Sales will not be going back to in-person events in the near future; they will continue to be online. During that time, the Sheriff's Office will be constantly monitoring the metrics of the online sales process, and will make adjustments to the process as needed – that includes the possibility of a return to in-person sales.

 

When will the sheriff’s website be updated to reflect this new information?

The Sheriff’s Office website is updated regularly to reflect changing information.

 

Will the bid winner receive a sheriff's deed?

If the bid winner satisfies the terms of sale, they will receive a deed.

 

When a mortgage foreclosure property is listed for auction, will it be canceled at the last moment?

Yes – property sales can be postponed or stayed at any time.

 

How long does it take for the bidding deposits to post on the website?

A cashier’s check – couple days; wire transfers are typically cleared the next day. When bidders go in to access deposit instructions on Bid4Assets, you’ll see a memo. Please include that memo when you pay – it will greatly speed up the process.

 

Will the homes go up for auction one by one or will they all go at the same time for the day?

They will all go live at the same time – 10 a.m. – and will be live until the sale closes at 1 p.m. There is a five-minute overtime available when a bid comes in after 12:55 p.m.

 

Can we do our due diligence now on these properties? In other words, is the city open for us to check the lien and code violations on the properties?

Yes, the city is open for you to do your due diligence. It is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED that you do so.

 

Where is the most accurate list for an auction?

The most up-to-date information can be found on Bid4Assets’ dedicated Philadelphia Sheriff Sale page.

 

Will auction ending times be staggered?

Yes, the auctions will be staggered, with batches closing in ten-minute intervals at 1:00 pm, 1:10 pm, etc. Also remember that you can put in your maximum proxy bid at any time during the 3-hour open bidding window, so you do not need to wait until the last minute.

 

How much deposit money do I need to have with the website if I want to be prepared to potentially be able to purchase 30 properties? By not settling on a property for whatever reason, will you be "banned" from this website and from future sales? 
You only need to put up one deposit to bid in a particular sale, even if you want to bid on many properties. You’ll fund the remainder of 10% of the balance for what you’ve won after the auction. Please do NOT send more than the deposit before the auction. You cannot cancel bids or back out of a sale after the auction, so please complete your due diligence before you bid. If you do not complete a sale, you will forfeit your deposit and be banned from future sales.

Isn't this new process really going to shut out the people who live in the neighborhoods where the properties are being sold?
This process is actually more democratic than in-person sales. No intimidation, no favoritism, no human error during the bidding process, and an overtime feature that will prevent sniping. Early bidder deposit data shows that roughly 80% of bidders are coming from the Philadelphia area.

Does the runner-up bidder automatically become a 2nd bidder, or do they need to opt in as the 2nd bidder?
You do not automatically become the 2ndbidder – you are given the option and must accept that option to become the second bidder.

Is there any way to participate in an auction if you don't have funds in your account at least 7 days ahead of time? 

We will continue to process deposits via wire transfer after the deadline, but once the deadline has passed we cannot guarantee you will be cleared in time.

 

The listing of properties for mortgage foreclosures is different between the Bid4assets site and the sheriff site. Which one is current so we can do our research?

The most accurate, up-to-date information is found on the Bid4Assets website. The Philadelphia Sheriff’s website is currently undergoing maintenance to make it capable of handling increased sale-related activity.


Are we allowed to view the property, not by going inside the property, but by walking on the property to go around the property if there is no one living in the property?

It is considered to be trespassing to walk on a property that is not yours without the explicit invitation to do so. The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office urges you to do your due diligence virtually or by examining the property from a public area.


If the property doesn’t have tenants and I paid for the property, how soon can I enter the property? Do I have to wait until I get the deed/title to the house?

You are not the rightful owner of the property until you have received a recorded deed in hand. You cannot do anything until you have that deed. If you know for certain that the property is unoccupied, we recommend you contact a locksmith to gain entry to the property.


How do we know if a mortgage foreclosure sale is subject to mortgage, or property lien? In that case, would the office issue a clean title? 

If a property is subject to mortgage, you would not receive a clean title. You would be responsible for taking on that mortgage. The information about the mortgage will be advertised. You can view that information in the ad. If you are unsure, contact our office and we will be happy to assist you.


If the property is a mortgage sale (primary mortgage), what happens if the property has a second mortgage? Who is responsible in that case?

If the property is being sold subject to mortgage, then that second mortgage would be your responsibility. If the property is not being sold subject to mortgage and there is a second mortgage on it, then it is the responsibility of the attorney putting the property up for sale to notify the second mortgage company that the property is going to sale. They would have to bid their interest.


Once I purchase a tax property, how will I show I am tax-compliant? Is there something to submit through bid4assets or the Sheriff’s Office?

The instructions for submitting tax compliance forms are on the Bid4Assets website. There is an email address that is provided by the Department of Revenue. You would submit your information to them and they will submit your tax compliance certificate after review.


Does Bid4Assets return the Buyer’s premium if a sale is set aside or redeemed? 

If the sale is set aside within one year of occurring, Bid4Assets will return the premium back to the buyer.


Why is there a difference between the buyer’s premium for the tax sale, versus the mortgage sale?

The difference is due to the wide disparity in historic pricing results between the two types of sales.


What does “pending” mean in the current bid column on bid4assets?

It means the law firm has not yet provided the minimum bid for a property.


Can we see current bids/final bids if we are not registered for that particular auction? 

Yes.


How do we know if there are any state liens or open violations? These are typically announced by the auctioneer at the time of the auction. 

We are working on getting that information out. If you have any questions, you can contact the state, or contact our office to see if we have any information on a property from the state.


If we are bidding on a property through an LLC or Corporation, do we register on bid4assets under our personal or business name?

You must provide both the business and personal names.


Is the $10,000 deposit good for both tax and mortgage sales?

No, the $10,000 deposit is for mortgage sales. The deposit for tax sales is $1,500.


Is it possible to roll our deposits into the next City tax auction, which occurs less than 7 days from the end of the last one? 

Yes. If you did not win any sales, you will be given the option to roll your deposit into the next auction.


Can I purchase two, or more, properties with one deposit?

Yes. 


Are past due water, city liens, and real estate taxes included in the upset/reserve price?

Yes.


Can Bid4Assets or the Sheriff’s Office, tell a bidder if a property is vacant? 

No. We do not receive that information from the court.


Is the full payment due within 15 business days, or 15 calendar days including weekends? 

Fifteen calendar days, but if Day 15 falls on a weekend or a federal holiday, then it would be due the first business day after that.

 

Is the settlement process different for tax sales versus mortgage foreclosure sales?

The process is the same. The only difference is that on the tax sale, you are required to obtain a tax compliance certificate.


Will the Sheriff’s office be issuing Sheriff’s memos for clearing city liens as was done in the past? Who do we contact for that? 

We are working with our city partners to remove the lien following a tax sale. We will send them the information and they are notified once the deed is recorded. It is the city department’s responsibility to remove the lien.


During the auction, is it possible to cancel my bid if I bid by mistake? 

No. Your bid is legally binding and irreversible. Please make absolutely sure of your actions before committing to them.


What is the time frame for the winner to get a tax compliance letter? What happens to the deposit if the bidder does not receive the compliance letter?

Tax compliance letters – the time frame is 30 days. You are required to pay your balance within 15 days. We will give that time for the tax compliance to come in. We must receive it within that 30-day window. If we do not receive it within that 30-day window, you are considered to be in default and you will forfeit your 10% deposit. But if you can show the department that you have applied for it and that it is being delayed, you can ask for an extension.