Many buyers, especially first-timers, hope to purchase a foreclosed property at a bargain price. While purchasing a foreclosed home can be a wise choice for some buyers, it is important that buyers understand the differences in buying at different stages of foreclosure and be prepared to take on the challenges typically associated with each. First, you have to decide at what stage of foreclosure you want to buy. There are three options: 1. pre-foreclosure; 2. sheriff’s auction; 3. repossession, called REO (for real estate owned by the bank). The safest and best way to buy is when it’s a bank-owned property.
UNDERSTANDING THE KEY FACTS OF THE STORY
- There are three basic stages of foreclosure in California: Pre-foreclosure, trustee’s sale, and repossession, often called an REO or real estate owned by the bank.
- Pre-foreclosure homes are in the foreclosure process, but have not yet been auctioned. Owners of pre-foreclosed homes often try to sell the properties because they are “underwater,” meaning they owe more on the mortgage than the home currently is worth. Many homeowners attempt to sell via short sale, where the lender must agree to accept less than the amount owed on the mortgage. Buying at this stage of foreclosure often is a complicated and slow process. However, buyers of pre-foreclosed properties often are given the opportunity to inspect the home prior to purchasing, whereas this is not always the case when buying at other stages of foreclosures.
- The second basic stage of foreclosure is the public auction at a trustee’s or foreclosure sale. Homes in this stage often are well priced, but also come with challenges to buy. These homes may not be available for inspection and buyers may later discover the property needs numerous repairs. As a result, many of the homes at auction are purchased by investors and contractors who have experience working with homes needing numerous repairs, or taken back as REO by the foreclosing lenders.
- If a home does not sell to a third party at the trustee’s auction, the bank takes the property–the final stage of the foreclosure process. Although homes in this stage typically do not offer buyers the best prices, buyers generally can perform a thorough inspection of the property prior to closing.
Once you’ve decided which type of home to buy, there are several common mistakes foreclosure buyers should take care to avoid. These include:
Getting caught up in a bidding frenzy; underestimating repair costs; not knowing what comparable properties cost; buying in a neighborhood flooded with foreclosures; and not having financing in place.
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