A Conversation with Charles “Hos” Hoskins Former Maricopa County Treasurer

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Tricia Covert
Publisher, Arizona Journal of Real Estate & Business


Over the past couple of years, I’ve had the pleasure to work with the former Maricopa County Treasurer, “Hos” Hoskins, to outline annual tax lien auction information for our readers. As of January 1, 2017, Hos begins his retirement journey and Deputy Treasurer, Royce Flora, has been elected to take his place. This is Hos’ second retirement after serving nine dedicated years as treasurer. Prior to becoming treasurer, Hos spent twenty years in the Air Force and worked for the state of Arizona for fourteen years. Before his term ended, Hos took the time to provide me with updates to the 2017 tax lien auction process as well as briefly talk about his retirement.

The annual tax lien auction is scheduled for February 8, 2017. This year’s auction anticipates an average of 1,200 investor participants who will bid for tax lien parcels — as a result of delinquent payments from Arizona property owners. Tax liens may not appear to be a natural choice for an investment, but it can produce positive, monetary results.

Hos, why have you decided to retire and how have you enjoyed serving as the Maricopa County Treasurer?
I am satisfied that I have managed to bring in several cost saving changes and innovations that will offset the costs of running the Treasurer’s Office for many years. After achieving this and over 60 years of working, it seems like enough as well as a time to retire.

Will Royce Flora follow the same path as you did as treasurer and is there anything you hope will change in the years ahead?
I certainly hope Royce will follow the same path. I don’t see any significant changes in the near term. A positive change would be better assistance with lower property taxes for the low income, elderly homeowners in the years ahead.

What is the benefit for an investor to buy a tax lien property in your opinion?
A tax lien investment is a pretty safe bet. The foreclosure rate — where ownership actually transfers to the investor, is less than 1 percent. If you buy two hundred liens, chances are you will take ownership of one of those liens. When an investor purchases a tax lien, they’re in first place — their position is superior to other liens on that property. You’re going to get your money back with a pretty decent rate of interest, plus a chance to own the property.

What is the primary decision that needs to be made when an investor bids on a tax lien?
You’re loaning your money to the property owner to pay their taxes in exchange for a first place foreclosable lien. The main decision you have to make is what rate of return you are willing to accept for that loan – the maximum interest is 16 percent. About 1,200 other bidders may also want that lien, so you have to be prepared.

Who are the investors?
There have been a number of investors who have been doing it for years and new investors join in all the time from all over the world. Usually, they’re individuals. However, during the past few years some large companies are purchasing several million dollars worth of tax liens and they bid it at 2 percent to 3 percent interest.

Is it lucrative for most of the investors?
Yes, a lot of investors do it full-time. You have a 99 percent chance you’re going to get your money back with interest. The risk is extremely low as long as you don’t just buy using certain criteria. For example: if your strategy is to bid a 5 percent interest rate for all liens from $700 and below you will get in trouble. Doing your research and knowing what you’re bidding on is important.

Is there a lot of administrative work when you purchase a tax lien parcel?
Most of the time you never have to even talk to the property owner — you just hold the liens. You have to wait three years to foreclose on the property. Then, if there is a foreclosure, you may have to go through a regular eviction process.
What is the main cause of delinquent tax payments in Maricopa County?
About 60 percent of delinquent taxes are due to people not having the money to pay their taxes. The other 40 percent are incorrect mailing addresses due to a change in ownership or mortgage payoff.

What type of volume does the County Treasurer’s office deal with each year in property tax collection?
The County Treasurer’s Office collects and distributes about $10.5 billion each year that involves about 3.5 million transactions. In addition, we manage an investment portfolio of about $3.5 million.

What’s the best way to get the tax lien property list for the February 2017 online auction?
The list is available online at www.treasurer.maricopa.gov or on a CD. It’s categorized by parcel number and by areas in Maricopa County. Tax liens on the list are always from two years prior, so this year it will be for properties from 2015. We also list it in the Phoenix Business Gazette. The auction website (bidmaricopa.com) will be available the week of January 16, 2017.

Thank you for always being so receptive to share your knowledge with our readers. Is there anything you would like to say to the residents of Maricopa County as you retire?
I greatly appreciate them giving me the honor to serve.