The other day, I was going around with a friend who wanted to look at a few houses he was thinking about buying. The first one was in Winnetka, so I took the train to meet him. We looked at that one, drove to see another in the Rogers Park neighborhood, then went all the way down to Bridgeview. The amazing thing, we realized, was that even after all those hours in the car, we never left Cook County. 

It’s no surprise to anyone here that Cook County is enormous. It’s got a population bigger than over half the states. It somehow has both Northbrook and Cicero, Schaumburg and Orland Park. It’s weird and confusing and wonderful. And, it’s full of opportunity for the real estate investor. 

Navigating Cook County real estate is like, well, navigating around Cook County. That’s why some investors like to simplify their endeavors by turning to the Cook County Tax Auction for buying distressed homes in Chicago and beyond. It’s certainly one road to get you where you need to be, but there is also a way better path. 

Cook County Tax Auction: What Real Estate Investors Must Know

Understanding the Cook County Tax Sale

OK, to get something clear upfront, the increased availability of tax sale properties is the result of Illinois legislation that makes it harder on delinquent homeowners. Passed in 2014, SB 2778 doubles—or even triples—tax bills and shortens the payment cycle from 12 months down to eight. This has led to a lot more foreclosures. 

Of course, they don’t happen right away. Homeowners have up to two-and-a-half years to get things straight but, at this point, they are behind the 8-ball. So what we have for sale in 2019 are properties that were delinquent in the 2017 tax year. It’s very bureaucratic. 

The whole thing is, and it has to be. I know colleagues in smaller counties in Maine, who practically get calls from the sheriff when a house is for sale. That’s not Cook County. The size alone dictates a very formal process. 

It’s also a very big one. If you want to search for Chicago, you can search by ward (though the site is currently outdated; I see listed a few aldermen who lost their last election). You can also search by one of the 130 municipalities or break it down into townships, an odd quasi-formal political structure fairly unique to Cook County. There are 30 of those. If you want, you can even search by Commissioner District, but I bet not one in 1000 people know who their County Commissioner is. 

So the issue here is that you either have to focus on one specific area or just sort of pick and choose at random. It’s pretty overwhelming. Clicking on any of those gives you a tiny-print spreadsheet. You have to do the rest of the work. 

This confusing system doesn’t stop there. But when it comes to actually trying to buy a property at the Cook County Tax Sale, you have to follow its rules. I’m going to quote verbatim from the website because I couldn’t otherwise do it justice. 

The 2017 Annual Tax Sale will be conducted as an online, internet-based sale at

  • Registration, deposits of collateral, storing bids to be placed on the day of the sale, and payment for certificates of purchase all can be accomplished using any computer with access to the internet.
  • However, the final placement of bids can only be made from computers located in the Cook County Treasurer’s Sale Room on the days of the sale.
  • The Sale Room will be located in Room 112 (Randolph Street entrance) of the Cook County Treasurer’s Office, 118 N. Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois.

You get that? You can start the process from anywhere, but the bids can only be made on special, in-person computers. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to buy in Park Forest or Algonquin. You have to come downtown right at the time everyone is looking for cheap Chicago property, too. 

I’ve done it. I have, in fact, made a few good deals this way. But, it is also time-consuming, irritating, and filled with competition. That’s why I’ve found a better way. 

A Better Way To Get Leads in Cook County 

If you can’t tell already, I’m pretty fascinated by Cook County. It’s a cool, weird, wonderful place. But, it can also be maddening. That’s why I wanted a better way to get leads—one where I could actually help people. 

So, I became an independently owned and operated HomeVestors® franchisee. With HomeVestors’ nationally-known and trusted “We Buy Ugly Houses®,” marketing campaign, I get qualified leads from people who still own their homes but who might be tax delinquent and looking to sell. Often, they’ve been hit with this new tax bill and have a very limited time to get things right. The easiest course for them is to sell quickly—and, they want to be treated fairly. 

This way, I get leads from motivated home sellers without having to go downtown to a magical computer and close on deals competing with thousands of other people. I can actually inspect a home, talk to the owners, and help people who want to sell their home before they lose it. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re in Elgin or Berwyn, along the lake or out west, next to Northwestern or on the South Shore. You have a chance to get better qualified leads.

The opportunity to improve your professional real estate investing business without going through the Cook County tax auction is limited so request information today.  


Each franchise office is independently owned and operated. 



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