Foreclosure and distress property bargains always occur

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Are there any foreclosures or distress properties in your town or neighborhood? If you answered "no," you probably aren't paying close attention to the local real estate market.

Good times or bad, these situations always occur. Even during the peak years of 2004 and 2005 for home sales, there were still mortgage lender foreclosures and distress property sales. Today, the numbers of these sales are rapidly rising. If you're interested, the current buyer's market in most cities is a great time to acquire these properties below market value.

Most institutional mortgage lenders do not want to foreclose and acquire the property. It costs lenders thousands of dollars to hold foreclosure property instead of keeping their mortgage money earning interest.

The grim reality is somebody will profit from every foreclosure and distress property situation. If you didn't cause the problem, you might as well profit from someone else's problem.

Step one -- the judicial foreclosure lawsuit or notice of default. Until the mortgage lender gives up on the borrower, the public usually does not know there is a problem. But when the lender records a judicial foreclosure lawsuit on a mortgage, or files a notice of default on a deed of trust, the borrower's default becomes public knowledge at the local court house.

At this point, bargain hunters swing into action to contact defaulting borrowers to see if there is a "preforeclosure opportunity" during the lender's reinstatement period before the official foreclosure auction.

This reinstatement period, which can be as short as 21 days in Texas but generally is three to six months in most states, gives borrowers time to either sell the property or reinstate the mortgage before losing the property at a foreclosure sale.

Step two -- buy at the foreclosure auction. If a property buyer cannot purchase the home from the defaulting borrower during the reinstatement period, the house will go to either a judicial court foreclosure sale or a nonjudicial trustee's sale.

The advantage of buying at such an auction is any junior liens are wiped out. To illustrate, if a house has a first, second and third mortgage, plus a judgment lien and a mechanics' lien, they will all be wiped out when the first mortgage lender holds a foreclosure sale.

But the disadvantage of buying at a foreclosure auction is cash (actually cashier's checks) are required either at the sale or shortly thereafter. This is one place your MasterCard, Visa and American Express cards are not welcome.

Raising enough cash to bid at a foreclosure sale can be difficult, especially when the amount of the defaulted mortgage is large, often $100,000 or more.

Another problem is foreclosure auctions are "as is," meaning there is no opportunity to inspect the house before purchase and the foreclosing lender will not pay for any repairs. In most states, foreclosure-sale sellers are not required to disclose even known defects at the auction.

Step three -- buy after the foreclosure auction. When there are no bidders at the foreclosure auction, title to the property then goes to the foreclosing lender. This is called REO (real estate owned) property. Lenders are usually anxious to get rid of REO property, which costs money to maintain and incurs liability risks.

Astute buyers often approach foreclosing lenders who acquired property immediately after the sale to make a purchase offer. My favorite tactic is to send a FedEx overnight letter to the lender's president, offering to purchase for the amount of the foreclosed mortgage (presuming the property is worth that much).

Of course, the lender's president never sees the letter, but it will get referred to the right decision-maker in the REO department.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: