Buying a Foreclosed Home
Are you fascinated by the home makeover television programs that show
the excitement of buying and renovating a foreclosed home? Have you
seen foreclosed homes in your city that look like a good buy? Before
you go out to the next courthouse auction to buy your next home or
dream of flipping that house for major profits, be sure to do your
homework. We’ve compiled valuable tips on navigating your options when
buying a foreclosed home.
- Bank-Owned Homes
- Buying from Government Agencies
- General Tips
- Other Resources
- E-mail this Information to A Friend
- Other Topics in the Consumer Focus Archive
In some instances you may be able to find a home in pre-foreclosure. In
this case, you offer to purchase a house that is close to going into
default and buy the house directly from the homeowner. The homeowner
would sign the deed to the house over to you, and you would assume the
mortgage and make any back payments due to the lender. Once the notice
of default is filed with the county where the property is located, you
can contact the homeowner via phone, mail, or in person. Some benefits
of this option include:
- You can conduct a title search before purchasing the property.
- View the inside of the home.
- Schedule a home inspection.
- You can purchase the home at a discount (usually around 10 to 20 percent below the home’s value).
This option also benefits the owner because they are able to avoid
foreclosure and salvage some of the equity in the home. Be mindful,
however, that there is a short window of time to buy a home in
pre-foreclosure so you will need to work fast.
When people think of buying a foreclosed home, the image of potential
buyers bidding on the steps of the local courthouse seems to come to
mind. In this case, the seller of the home is not the owner of the
home, but rather the financial institution or county that has not been
paid by the homeowner. Auctions often attract well established and
experienced real estate investors who have enough cash to fund the
purchase, repair, and resale of the home. You can locate auctions
through dedicated websites that list upcoming auctions, but many of
them charge a fee to search their site. A sure way to get free
information about the dates, times, and properties listed is to contact
your county tax department. If you decide to purchase a foreclosed home
through this method, here are some things to consider:
- Know the maximum amount you are willing to bid and stick to that budget.
- You will not be able to complete a home inspection or title
search on the property, unless you completed it during the
- If you make the winning bid, you will have to pay for the property immediately with cash or a cashier’s check.
- All sales are final.
- There is the possibility that you will have to evict tenants/
residents. If you are unfamiliar with the eviction process, you should
hire a lawyer to handle it for you.
- You are responsible for any tax liabilities or second mortgages against the property.
You can also consider buying a foreclosed home directly from the
financial institution that issued the original loan for the house.
There are various databases available online that can direct you to
bank-owned real estate or you can contact banks directly and ask about
their real-estate-owned (REO) programs. Buying a home this way is
considered by some to be the safest way to purchase a foreclosed home.
- You can arrange for financing. Consider being pre-qualified for a mortgage, if possible.
- There are no other liens against the property.
- You will not have to evict current residents.
- Make your offer on the home subject to a home inspection to avoid structural and maintenance surprises.
You will have better luck negotiating a lower price on a foreclosed
home that has been on the bank’s books for a long period of time (90
days or more). Once you make an offer on a home be patient, as it may
take a while for the bank to get back to you.
Buying from Government Agencies
Several government agencies have collaborated to sell foreclosed homes
to citizens through HomeSales.gov. The web site provides current
information about single family homes for sale by the U.S. federal
government. These previously-owned homes are for sale by public auction
or other method depending on the property. Anyone can buy a home for
sale by the U.S. Government, but you must work with a real estate
agent, broker or servicing representative to submit an offer or bid. In
addition, both HUD and Department of Veterans Affairs have foreclosed
homes available to sell to the public. These homes are available for
sale to people who will use the home as their primary home. However, if
no one purchases a home for a primary residence, then the property may
become available for investors to purchase. HUD also offers the Good
Neighbor Next Door Program to help public servants (teachers,
firefighters, and police officers) purchase a HUD home at a discount.
Regardless of the method that you use to purchase a foreclosed home, here are some helpful tips that you should keep in mind:
- Do your research. Before buying the foreclosed home do a title
search to discover all liens and back taxes owed on the property. A lot
of the information that you need is available for free from your
courthouse or county records, so don’t get tricked into paying for the
- Select a real estate agent or lawyer who is experienced with the purchase of foreclosures.
- Compare the asking price of the home you are considering with the
value of other homes in the neighborhood to make sure you are getting a
- Know that there will probably be more paperwork involved when you buy a foreclosed home.