The city is holding its annual "tax sale" Wednesday, which means it is auctioning off properties where the owner has defaulted on paying property tax for the last three years, and officials at City Hall are expecting a full house of about 200 people to attend.
Esther Lee, director of financial services with the City of Vancouver, says anyone can bid on the properties, which are listed along with their outstanding tax amounts on the city's website a week before the auction.
Thesuccessful bidder has to pay the outstanding taxes immediately, but the original owner still has one year to repay the property tax bill—along with a six per cent annual interest rate to the winning bidder.
Lee says many of the people who bid at the auction are actually looking for that high rate of return, rather than a piece of real estate.
"It's a way to earn a good rate of interest on cash that they may invest for a short term," she said. "The challenge with that is there's no way to know how long that term is.
"A property owner could redeem the very next day, they could wait until one year later, so your investment earning of six per cent is really dependent on when that redemption could happen."
Of course, if the owner doesn't come forward, the bidder has to actually buy the property.
But Lee says that is rare. A tax sale auctioned property in Vancouver has only changed hands once since 2008.
In that case, Lee says the owner of the property was already trying to sell.