It can be argued that the best deals in real estate are foreclosed properties. REOs and short sale
properties have flooded the market, and buyers are taking advantage of the lower prices of
distressed properties. REOs are some of the hottest properties right now, with many being
sold within days or even hours of becoming available. Why are they so appealing? Quite
simply; they are priced to sell. But its important to understand what is involved with REOs and
short sale properties and to know what youre getting yourself into if this is the route you decide
REOs are properties that banks have foreclosed on after the homeowners have not been able to
make payments. The current influx of these properties comes from so many homeowners in
recent years choosing adjustable rate mortgages, then not being able to make payments once
interest rates increased. Banks are left with the burden of maintaining the properties and selling
them in a down market. In areas where thousands of properties have foreclosed, the expense can
be enormous. In order to unload the homes, banks often price them below market.
Short sales are a bit different than REOs. These are properties that a homeowner owes more than
the value of the property and the lender has agreed to sell for less than the amount owed on
the mortgage and forgive the seller their remaining debt. If a bank believes it can avoid less of a
loss, they will sell the property short rather than putting it into foreclosure. Buyers usually have
the opportunity to purchase these at current market prices or a little below.
Foreclosures, REOs and short sales can absolutely be some of the best deals out there, but they are
more complicated to buy than traditional homes. If youre thinking of looking in this market, here
are some suggestions that might help your search:
Find an experienced agent Get a real estate agent who is specifically familiar
with REOs and short sales and the processes involved in buying them.
There are important details and steps when purchasing these properties and its
important that you work with an agent who knows how to get you the best
Know where and how to look REOs and short sales are usually listed on the
Multiple Listing Service and can be found on the majority of websites that feature
properties for sale. You can see which properties are in the process of foreclosure
on RealtyTrac.com or find homes that have already foreclosed on sites like
Zillow.com,Trulia.com and CaliforniaMoves.com. Many lenders also
have their foreclosed properties listed directly on their websites.
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
In all likelihood, you will not be wowed when walking through the door of a
foreclosed property. Most are sold as is and its often the case that in the
months leading up to foreclosure, homeowners disregard maintenance and
let the condition of the home deteriorate. Expect to see homes stripped of
appliances, light fixtures and any other items that can be sold. In the worst case
scenarios, homes fall victim to vandals and transients who take advantage of a
vacant property. You might have a better chance of finding short sale properties
in better condition because once the bank decides to sell it short, its listed on the
MLS and buyers are able to tour it. The homeowners tend to move out more quickly,
giving the home less time to deteriorate. Keep in mind that lenders will not lend on homes
that are considered unlivable. So either the bank will need to fix a home with
major water damage, missing flooring, broken windows and exposed wiring, or
you will need to look for another property. Make sure to include the amount you will
likely need to pay in improvements when setting your budget.
Be patient Transactions usually take a little longer when working with banks.
Normally, you may hear back on an offer from the seller the next day. But thats
not always the case when working with banks. An offer may have to be passed
around for several people to review and approve. Banks only work during normal
business hours and wont be considering your offer on the weekend or in the
evenings. Expect a few days or a week to hear if your offer on an REO has
been accepted. The wait for a short sale can be much
longer because, unlike standard sales, there is no set closing time. If a lender
thinks it can get a higher price from another bidder, put the house into
foreclosure and sell it as an REO, or hold off until an upturn in the market, it wont
mind waiting months on end to close. Complications also arise if more than one
lender is involved. The second lender may have specific demands in order to
receive as much back from their initial loan as possible. So if you are trying to
purchase a new house around the time youre selling your current one, a short
sale property is likely not the way to go. Short sales can be more convenient for
those looking for an investment property or first time buyers who are not in a hurry
There are other fish in the sea Dont worry if you dont get the first or second
property you make an offer on. There will be others. Experts say we could
see many months, if not longer, of foreclosures come on the market.
Focus on a city or neighborhood that you want to buy in and make sure your
real estate agent knows what youre looking for. Foreclosures can come
and go quickly, especially those in good condition. Be ready to pounce,
but dont be too disappointed if you miss out. Another property will likely
become available soon.
Ask for help You may be able to find help with your down payment on a
foreclosed property. Many cities now have programs for first time buyers
and those buying below-market properties. Look into what programs
are available in the city in which youre looking to buy. Also remember that
just because you are buying from the bank it doesnt mean the price is set.
There is always room for negotiation, even with closing costs. It never hurts
to ask. And as always, before you start looking you should first get preapproved
for a loan. Foreclosure or otherwise, your offer will hold more weight with the seller
or bank when they see you are serious about buying.
Its been a long time since weve seen such a large number of foreclosures on
the market and people are jumping at the chance to take advantage of the lower prices.
But these transactions can be much trickier than standard sales. When it comes to working
with banks, its a whole other ballgame as they say. A foreclosed property could be
one of the best investments you make, but also the most complicated. If you take time
to research and talk to real estate experts in your area, you will likely find yourself
reaping the benefits of your investment for years to come.
Charo Bhatt, Broker Associate, Global Luxury Property Specialist
CRS, SRES, GRI, SFR,CDPE
CRS, SRES, GRI, SFR,CDPE