Tax-Title & Surplus Sales of Real Property

What does Tax-Title mean?
Properties offered for auction at tax foreclosure sales, but not sold, are deeded to the County. These properties are called "Tax-Title." They may still be purchased from the County through a process called a tax-title sale. A list of tax-title properties (PDF) is available at the Treasurer's Office. Tax-title properties are subject to the same risks as tax foreclosure properties.

What is County-Owned Surplus?
Properties the County owns, not acquired through tax foreclosure, can be purchased if the Whatcom County Council has declared a property "surplus." A list of surplus County-owned property will be available at the Treasurer's Office, from time to time, when so declared.

How is Tax-Title & County-Owned Surplus Property Purchased?

Purchasing tax-title and County-owned surplus property is done through public auction, or by private negotiation without a call for bids per RCW 36.35.150, and is called a tax-title sale. It can take 6 months or more to bring a property to sale.

An Application to Purchase County Property (PDF), along with a $150 deposit starts the process. Each property requires a separate form and deposit. You may, however, request that several properties be sold as a group.

The Treasurer's Office schedules a meeting of the Whatcom County Property Management Committee to present all applications received. The committee makes a recommendation to retain or sell a property, either by public auction or private negotiation. If the committee recommends retaining the property, the applicant's deposit will be refunded. If the committee recommends in favor of the sale, a resolution is drafted and submitted to the County Executive.

The County Executive usually forwards the resolution to the Whatcom County Council.

The Whatcom County Council sets a public hearing date and applicants are notified. At the hearing the Council approves or rejects the sale. If the sale is rejected, the applicant's deposit is refunded.

If approved for sale by public auction, the Whatcom County Treasurer schedules the auction and the applicant is notified of the date, time and location. The auction is advertised in the local newspaper for 3 consecutive weeks.

Anyone can attend the public auction and bid on the properties for sale. If the applicant is the successful bidder at the sale, their deposit is applied to the purchase amount. The applicant's deposit is refunded, if they or their representative, are present at the sale and someone else purchases the property.

Researching Properties
See our property auction research page for information on researching property.

How the Auction Works
See our property auction process page for additional information on the process.