My wife and I enjoy our apartment, but we’re preparing for the day when we can make the jump to a house. We could use the extra space, and we’re ready to get away from some of the ticky-tack regulations and rules that landlords love to use.
Financially, however, our preparation is lacking. It isn’t because we’re not trying, but we’ve decided that we’d like to have a sizable down payment and know exactly what we’re getting into. We haven’t had much debt in our marriage so far, and so in some ways, we’re reluctant to dive in.
For this reason, buying a foreclosed home is something that has been very interesting to us. I was first sucked in by hearing radio commercials announcing homes for sale for just $12,000 or $22,000. I naïvely thought, “wow – $12,000? We can swing that. We’ll be in a house in no time!”
Turns out, such was not the case. While properties going for those prices are available, most foreclosed homes can be found going for between 20-40% off the value of the home, according to AOL Money. While this isn’t rock bottom, it’s still quite a bit more affordable than a full-priced home.
According to the same AOL Money article, there are five tips that can make buying a foreclosure a realistic choice for many potential home buyers.
1. Find a property. The article recommends checking two sites: Foreclosure.com and RealtyTrac. Both charge a fee, but they each list thousands of properties. The best places to look are areas that are places that have a high grouping of “distressed properties.” Doing a bit of research about the local economic situation can help as well – you’ll obviously have better luck in areas with more foreclosures.
2. Skip the auctions. At an auction you’re usually buying a home without seeing it first. Before you make any serious offers on a property you’ll want a full inspection, and that’s hard to do with properties that are auctioned off by a court. You may also be responsible for back taxes on the property, something that might not be disclosed during the action. The best thing to do is to wait for the bank to put the home back on the market. They’ll usually pay off any taxes or debts, and fix the home up a bit to attract potential buyers. This is a much safer way to buy.
3. Know local home values. As the article states: “Just because a home is being sold b the bank, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bargain.” If you find a property your interested in, use a site like zillow.com to compare values of the homes around it to make sure that you’re not getting ripped off.
4. Get Financed Before You Shop. Apparently many banks won’t make a loan for you to buy a ‘distressed property,’ so it’s a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start seriously shopping for home. Other banks base their loan on the condition of the property, so to avoid any problems, get your financing set up first.
5. Get an Inspection. I’ve already mentioned this earlier, but an inspection is key. You want to know as much as possible about a house, and paying for a professional inspection is worth it. Homes in foreclosure can be hiding serious problems, since the previous owner probably didn’t have money to make major repairs, or even perform routine maintenance.
With an inspection you’ll know not only the condition of the home, but what kind of repairs are needed and how much you can expect to pay for them.
While we’re still a while from seriously shopping for a home, we’re planning on checking out foreclosures for sure. Any money we can save on a home would be a leg up financially, and put us that much closer to being debt free again.
What thoughts or experiences do you have with buying a foreclosed property?
Updated June 23, 2016 and originally published August 20, 2009.