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    Buying Homes At The Foreclosure Auction: Be Careful, Buy Smart

    Buying homes for sale at the foreclosure auction may seem glamorous to some, but without proper preparation you may end up with an expensive life lesson.  With a few simple measures one can properly harvest profitable properties time and time again minimizing risk and maximizing profitability.

    The first measure, and the absolute most important, is to thoroughly research the foreclosure auction process in your area.  Specifically the trustees sale auction dealing with bank foreclosed properties.  In my area, our trustees’ sales are held at the courthouse on Friday Mornings.  Each state has different rights for the homeowner, bank and potential auction purchaser, start with a web search and research your area.  It would be strongly advisable to spend an hour discussing with a knowledgeable local Real Estate Attorney or Realtor.

    Once you are up to speed on your local Foreclosure Auction procedures and rules you need to begin attending your local auction as frequently as possible and tracking auction properties.  You do not want your first time at the auction to be the same day you make your first purchase.  You can obtain lists of properties in foreclosure from your local Realtor or through your local title company.  A Realtor will be a great asset in providing comparable sales analysis and resale projections for your purchases.

    Depending on your area, the information you receive may be sixty to ninety days in advance of the sale.  To obtain more current auction data, research homes for sale on the trustee’s website, the trustee is usually listed on the foreclosure sale data you receive from your Realtor or Title company.  A simple web search for the trustee name will yield their website, most sites are easy to navigate and you can easily drill down to your location and see homes for sale and often times, the opening bid of the auction.  Pick a list of properties you want to watch, have your Realtor partner pull comparable sales and make a quick drive by of the properties.  It’s important to note that most foreclosure auction processes do not allow interior inspection of the property and they are usually sold as-is.

    In addition to comparable sales, there are some legal considerations to investigate when purchasing auction properties.  This is where an experienced attorney or Realtor can come in handy to help minimize risk.  There are some services which will provide all the data for you, but typically cost up to three percent of the purchase price for the data.  A few important factors to consider:

    You Must (absolute Must) purchase the primary lien on the property.
    If you purchase a subordinate lien, such as a second mortgage, you risk the primary mortgage foreclosing and eliminating your position in the sale.  Do your title research on this if you mess up here, you can kiss a lot of money goodbye in short order.  Most subordinate liens will be removed after the purchase (here is a good topic of discussion with your Real Estate Attorney).

    You Must research IRS liens.
    Depending on when the lien was filed this can be a problem.  It’s important to allocate time to research this.  It’s different in each area and a good title company can help.

    Some like to preview the properties at auction, I know I said that you typically cannot preview them, but in rare cases they are listed by a Realtor up until the auction.  Have your Realtor partner schedule an appointment and take good notes, you may have an advantage over other bidders by knowing this “inside information.”

    If you don’t  have funding lined up, do it now.  Most auctions are cash sales.  They want paid when you win the auction.  Some auctions will require a holding fee anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 or more.  Get your money together and have it ready.  In most cases, auction purchases must be done with hard money (through an investor usually at high interest rates, this must be factored into your budget).

    While you’re doing your research, make time to attend your local auction. Track what properties are for sale and what they sell for, also track the properties that do not sell.  Start keeping a simple database of properties.  Most experienced I investors will suggest watching a minimum of ten auctions prior to attempting your first purchase.  After attending several auctions, you’ll begin to see some familiar faces.  Watch their methods, track their properties, what they purchase and what they sell for and begin developing your plan.

    With several auctions under your belt, money in hand and more research than you think you need, you can step up and make your purchase at the action.  Once you’ve made your purchase a number of things may happen.  Most areas will have you fill out the deed on the spot, others will have a small mail in process.  If the home you purchased was occupied the former owner retains some rights and may have twenty days or more to get out of the home.  You may have to evict them.  I suggest using a Real Estate attorney for this process, as an incorrect step may result in the former owner living in your home longer than expected and free of charge.

    This is not intended to be an all inclusive tutorial on auction purchases, but a compass to point you in the right direction.  Auction purchases require lots of hard work and research, if any point were to come across we’d like it to be that one.  Get out there, start tracking auctions and start investing in Real Estate, it’s a great time to make great money if you track the details and make one of the great buys that are out there!

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