Develop a system to
keep track of properties that interest you. A good tracking system is important
as most foreclosure buyers pursue many properties, sometimes over a period of
After you find a
property online, it's a good idea to drive by the property to get a better idea
of the property's condition and the type of neighborhood. Some buyers and
investors who have driven by the property have found notices posted there that
provide more information about the bank who now owns the property. You'll also
see if the property is listed with a real estate agent.
the potential bargain
When you find a
property that interests you, perform some preliminary research to make sure the
property represents a good bargain opportunity. Your research should not take
more than one or two days because you do not want to delay too long before
contacting the foreclosing bank. The key pieces of information you need to
gather are the estimated market value of the property and the bank's
The bank's break-even
amount includes the unpaid balance of the loan, any fees and costs incurred
during the foreclosure process and any other liens the bank had to pay off to
take ownership of the property. The unpaid loan balance plus any foreclosure
fees and costs are included in the opening bid.
You or your real
estate agent should initiate contact with the bank to express your interest in
the property. Before you expend the time and effort to contact the bank, make
sure you're fully prepared to buy.
At this stage of
foreclosure it's more likely the property will be listed for sale on the
Multiple Listing Service (MLS), so make sure you or your agent checks the MLS.
If the property is listed for sale, you can contact the listing agent directly.
Keep in mind that the potential bargain often diminishes if a listing agent is
If the property is not
listed with a real estate agent, you'll need to take some pro-active steps to
contact the foreclosing bank directly. The bank's main focus is not selling
property, which means you may need to do some digging to find the department or
person at the bank who manages repossessed property.
When you call the
foreclosing bank, you should ask for the REO (Real Estate Owned) department,
bank-owned homes department or asset management department. Be patient and
persistent at this point because it may take some time to get through to this
If you have trouble
contacting the bank by phone, another option is to overnight or fax a letter to
the bank stating your interest in the property. Some buyers and investors
include a check made out to a local escrow company to get the bank's attention.
This check is usually a small percentage of the total purchase price and should
be refunded if no transaction takes place, but it shows you're a serious buyer.
a purchase agreement
Once you make contact
with the bank's asset manager or REO officer, you should arrange to walk
through the property (with your agent if applicable) to make sure it fits your
criteria as a buyer. If both you and the bank agree to proceed, you should
start negotiating the terms of the purchase agreement. A real estate agent can
be a valuable resource during the negotiating process.
If state law allows a
redemption period for the owner after the bank takes ownership of the property,
you may have to wait until the end of the redemption period - several weeks or
several months, depending on the state. During the redemption period the owner
can regain ownership of the property by paying the total amount owed to the
bank plus any applicable foreclosure expenses.
The bank's primary
goal is to at least break even on all the costs that it has sunk into the
property. That includes the unpaid balance of the loan, the expenses associated
with the foreclosure proceedings, other liens and repairs to the property. Your
goal as a buyer is to purchase the property below market value, minus any
estimated repair costs. This is often possible if you contact the bank quickly
and are a prepared buyer ready to make a purchase.
In the recent real
estate market, buying directly from the bank has not been as profitable as
buying during pre-foreclosure or at the public auction. That's not to say there
aren't good deals available. And many buyers and investors prefer to buy
directly from the bank because it's typically a more predictable process than
buying during pre-foreclosure or at a public auction.
You'll probably get a
better bargain if you're willing to buy the property "as is," meaning
you're willing to buy the property in need of repairs disclosed by the seller.
Of course you'll still want to figure estimated repair costs into your final
Banks may be more
willing to sell at a below-market price if they have a glut of foreclosures,
which are non-performing assets from their perspective. If you're an investor
or buyer looking for more properties to purchase, you should let the asset
manager or REO officer know to contact you in the future if the bank needs to
quickly unload foreclosure properties.
Once you've arrived at
an agreement with the foreclosing bank, you can put the agreement in writing.
You should have a local real estate agent or real estate attorney help if
you're not familiar with how to draw up a purchase agreement.
Any purchase agreement
should make closing of the deal contingent on a full title search conducted by
a title company or attorney. The purchase agreement should also allow for a
professional inspection of the property before closing the deal.
An escrow company, who
acts as a third party, can manage the transfer of money and property ownership.
Assuming that you have your financing secured, this should be a fairly smooth