When determining the opening bid, a county takes into account if the property is homestead. If it IS, then 1/2 of the Assessed value of the property is added to the Opening Bid. That shows BIDDERS what they need to start the bidding. However, for the purposes of collecting surplus after the auction, that ‘1/2 of the assessed value’ also goes to the previous owner/lienholders/mortgage company (whoever is claiming the surplus).
No matter what the starting bid and ending bid is, the county only recovers their past due property tax and that’s it. The rest is surplus.
Late Property Taxes: $5,000
Homestead Property Value: $100,000
Starting Bid will be: $55,000 (Amt of Taxes PLUS 1/2 assessed value)
Property sells at auction for: $55,100 <Likely MUCH more since the assessed value is $100k
You may glance at that and see Starting Bid $55,000, Ending Bid $55,100 so the surplus is only $100 – definitely not worth pursuing
However, the surplus is actually $50,100 because THAT is the amount the property sold for over and above the amount due in property taxes.
HERE IS AN ACTUAL EXAMPLE FROM ST. LUCIE COUNTY
At the top, there is a screenshot of a tax deed auction result. Below that is the Notice of Surplus the county mailed out.