Published by Kartik Subramaniam
Many people who are in the market for a home consider purchasing a foreclosure for various reasons. The two most common motivating factors include getting an inexpensive place to live and purchasing so-called "investment properties" that can be renovated and sold for a nice profit. There's nothing inherently wrong with these concepts, and a good number of buyers do indeed find major bargains.
But like everything else in the world of real estate, there are pros and cons to purchasing a house that is in foreclosure. The best way to approach the question is to look at what it means for a property to be categorized as "foreclosed," and what the most common advantages and disadvantages are when it comes to buying foreclosed properties. Learning how to invest in real estate can be an important tool for any consumer.
In the broadest terms, a property becomes a foreclosure when the original owners can no longer make the payments and the bank takes ownership and possession of the home. At that point, buyers aren't dealing with the former owners of the house. They're buying directly from the bank (different than a short sale discussed below).
Banks don't like being in the home-selling business, so they're often anxious to unload whatever houses they are holding in inventory. There are lots of reasons a home can go into foreclosure, but the inability of the original owners to honor the terms of the original note is the most common scenario.
Foreclosures can be attractive buys for a number of reasons:
Low price: The most common advantage for buyers is a price that could be lower than market value. In some cases, banks are willing to accept offers that are less than you would pay if the home were being sold by its original owners. As far as banks are concerned, the high level goal of selling a home is to recoup their investment. If they can do that, and if there aren't several other buyers bidding the price up, then they're usually glad to get the asset off their books and into your possession through a sale. Prices on foreclosures can be lower than market value.
Title can still be clear: If you are buying an REO from a real estate broker and there is a standard escrow you can often get title insurance on it guaranteeing that the title is free of clouds.
Financing is virtually the same: In many cases, you can still use FHA, VA or conventional financing options to purchase a foreclosure. The only difference is that you're submitting your bid to a bank rather than a person. Expect the bank to make a counter-offer if they aren't happy with your first bid.
Investment opportunities: If you don't plan to live in the house and have the funds for upgrading or repairing it, then a foreclosure can be a smart way to invest in a potentially profitable piece of real estate. Some people have slowly built up a small portfolio of homes for sale by acquiring low-cost foreclosures and having them repaired.
There's a downside to buying foreclosed homes. Here are common disadvantages:
Closing can take a long time: Depending on the reason the home went into foreclosure, it might take you several months to close on the property after you decide to buy it. If you're in a hurry, or need to use the house as your main residence, time may not be on your side.
This is more true with a short sale. A short sale is different from a bank-owned foreclosure because the seller is not the lender in a short sale. The reason that short sales can take a longer amount of time to go through is because in a short sale, the seller needs approval from their lender to sell the property for less than the amount owed on the home. This third-party approval can take time to process.
Condition is usually "as-is": This is the main disadvantage of buying a foreclosed home. The condition is often quite bad and you have to do your best to figure out how much it will cost to bring it up to par. Generally banks selling foreclosures are exempt from providing a buyer with many of the disclosures that you would otherwise get from the prior owner. That means a thorough inspection at the very least. Next, you'll need to hire one or more contractors to give you estimates for repair work. Perhaps the roof needs to be replaced or there are plumbing problems.
You'll need to be approved and have good credit: You need to check with your lender and see if you can get approved for financing on a foreclosure. That typically means you'll need at least "good" credit and perhaps much better than good. Like any real estate deal, do not venture into the foreclosure market until you get a go-ahead from your own lender.
There's a reason it's still on the market: Foreclosed properties that have been up for bids for a may have "hidden problems." Think of it this way: why have so many other potential buyers passed on the chance to buy the house? By far, the most common reason is the condition and the potential cost to repair it.
The key point to keep in mind is that buying a foreclosed property can be either a very good or very bad financial move. You have to perform your own due diligence and find out what the pros and cons of a specific property are. Are extensive repairs needed? Do you have the funds to bring the house up to a high standard of quality and sell it for a profit, or live in it comfortably? Will your lender approve your application to purchase a foreclosed property? Are you ready to have the home inspected and take care of the necessary repairs? Are there unknown facts about why the property has been on the market, with no buyers, for x number of days?
Be sure to do a thorough analysis and try to get answers to all your questions. One thing that can be of great help is working with a Realtor who specializes in foreclosures. That way, you'll have the added advantage of expert advice every step of the way. What's the bottom line on buying foreclosures? If you take your time, work with a professional and do plenty of research, it's possible to find good deals. But never approach the process if you're in a rush, know nothing about the real estate market or are expecting to guarantee yourself a quick profit.
If you are interested in learning more about the real estate market or becoming a real estate agent so you can invest on your own, call us at 888-768-5285.
Are you ready to get your real estate license?