1. Home

Discuss in my forum

What is a Foreclosure?

How Foreclosures Work

By

Foreclosure Home Against a Blue Sky

Buyers should hire a real estate agent who specializes in foreclosures.

© Big Stock Photo
Home buyers who want a good deal in real estate invariably think first about pursuing foreclosures. Buyers have this picture in their mind of a cute little house, surrounded by a white picket fence that is owned by a widowed mom who fell on hard times, but that scenario is generally far from reality.

Why Do Sellers Go Into Foreclosure?

Sellers stop making payments for a host of reasons. Few choose to go into foreclosure voluntarily. It's often an unpredictable result from one of the following:

  • Laid-off, fired or quit job
  • Inability to continue working due to medical conditions
  • Excessive debt and mounting bill obligations
  • Squabbles with co-owner, divorce
  • Job transfer to another state
Negotiating Directly with Sellers in Foreclosure

Investors who specialize in buying foreclosures often prefer to purchase these homes before the foreclosure proceedings are final. Before approaching a seller in distress, consider:

  1. Foreclosure proceedings vary from state to state. In states where mortgages are used, home owners can end up staying in the property for almost a year; whereas, in states where trust deeds are used, a seller has less than four months before the trustee's sale.

  2. Almost every state provides for some period of redemption. This means the seller has an irrevocable right during a certain length of time to cure the default, including paying all foreclosure costs, back interest and missed principal payments, to regain control of the property. For more information, consult a real estate lawyer.

  3. Many states also require that buyers give to sellers certain disclosures regarding equity purchases. Failure to provide those notices and to prepare offers on the required paperwork can result in fines, lawsuits or even revocation of sale.

  4. Determine whether you're the type of person who can easily take advantage of a seller's misfortune under these circumstances and / or put a family out on the street. Oh, critics will argue it's just business and sellers deserve what they get, even if it's five cents on the dollar. Others will feign compassion and trick themselves into believing they are "helping" the home owners avoid further embarrassment, but deep inside yourself, you know that's not true.

Buying a Home at the Trustee's Sale

Check with your local county office to find out how sales in your area are handled, but common denominators among those I see in Sacramento are:

  • No loan contingency
  • Sealed bids
  • Proof of financial qualifications
  • Sizeable earnest money deposits
  • Purchase property "as is"

Sometimes buyers are not allowed to inspect the house before making an offer. The problem with buying a house sight unseen is you can't calculate how much it will cost to improve the structure or bring it up to habitable standards. Nor do you know if the occupant will retaliate and destroy the interior. On top of that, you may need to evict the tenant or owner from the premises after you receive title, and eviction processes can be costly.

Another drawback could be liens recorded against the property that will become your problem after title transfer. Some investors who buy at trustee sales pay for a title search in advance to avoid this problem. These guys who show up to bid on the courthouse steps are professionals, and they buy foreclosures at auction as a business. They hope to buy the foreclosure at a low price to make a nice profit when they later flip the home. You do not need to hire a real estate agent to buy a foreclosure at the auction, but you do need to know what you are doing.

Buying a Foreclosure From the Bank

Many banks do not sell homes directly to investors or home buyers. If a bank is willing to sell homes individually and not in bulk sales, the bank will generally list the home through a real estate agent. There are REO agents who specialize in foreclosure listings.

It is more common to buy a foreclosure directly from the bank in a bulk sale purchase. In bulk sales, the banks will package a bunch of properties into one transaction and sell them all at once to one entity. That is the best way to buy a foreclosure, if you can afford it, because the discounts are typically the steepest.

Watch Elizabeth Weintraub's Video about How Foreclosures Work

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, BRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.

Related Video
How Do Foreclosures Work?

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.