People can lose their ownership of real estate in a wide variety of ways. The most common are as follows.
• IRS seizures occur when all real and personal property of the taxpayer is subject to an IRS lien for unpaid taxes. The IRS may pick and choose which assets to sell and in what order to sell them. State and local governments can do the same thing for their own tax bills. This is different from the IRS criminal investigations seizures mentioned later.
• Real estate tax auctions arise from unpaid property taxes related to specific real estate. Only the property with the unpaid real estate taxes may be sold. All other properties are safe if their taxes were paid.
• Judgment executions occur after one person sues another person and wins a judgment. The lawsuit can be for a debt, injuries from an accident, breach of contract claims, or almost anything at all. The most common theme is a lawsuit and then a money judgment against the defendant. Once all the appeals have been exhausted, the winner, the judgment creditor, may seize and sell any of the loser’s real or personal property. There are some limitations that we will cover later.
• Government surplus property auctions are the most likely foreclosures you might encounter. They occur after the government takes private property under its eminent domain rights, and then auctions off the portions it does not need for the new school, library, etc.
• Bankruptcy auctions are required in order to liquidate the debtor’s assets and distribute the money among various creditors.
• United States Marshall’s Service forfeiture auctions sell property seized as a result of criminal activities.
• United States Treasury Department seizures occur as a result of criminal investigations by the IRS; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; United States Secret Service; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.