1. Above all else, do your research. Buying a foreclosure can get you some great deals, but not all foreclosure properties guarantee savings. You have to be willing to search out the properties with the best chance for potential savings by fully examining them. Be sure to call auction or sales trustees and get all the information you can about the home before you make any decisions. Often times there may be certain things wrong with the home that a listing will not show.
2. Before you decide to pursue a foreclosure you see listed, make sure it’s being sold through a method that suits your needs and abilities. There are a lot of different kinds of foreclosures out there, from bank owned homes to pre-foreclosure properties, and choosing the right method of purchase is often just as important as choosing the right property. Some methods offer advantages that others don’t, and depending on your personal situation, others may present disadvantages. For example, pre-foreclosure homes, though they offer great deals, usually require more work. There is often a lot of cat-and-mouse phone calling involved, a great deal of bargaining, and also plenty of face-to-face meeting time to work out and close deals. If this sort of commitment is impossible for you, you’d probably be wise to consider a different type of foreclosure. You want to make sure you maximize your chances of getting the best deal possible, and putting in only half the effort required, whether you’re buying pre-foreclosures of government homes, won’t get you the kind of savings you want.
3. Perform a title search. Often times neither listings nor trustees can tell you the whole story. Sometimes foreclosed homes come with additional liens held against them by tax collectors or utilities companies. A full title search will reveal if any such liens exist. Either consult a titling agency locally or find one online. It only requires a simple phone call, but the results could save you thousands of dollars.
4. Get an independent appraisal. Most listings come with appraisal values, or if not, they are usually provided by the trustee of the sale or the local Sheriff’s office, but get one of your own just to make sure. Hire an unaffiliated, independent appraiser to inspect the house and give you an idea of its real market value, just to be sure.
5. If you have doubts, inspect the home yourself. There’s really no better way to understand what you’re buying than to actually see it. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people try to buy foreclosure homes based on listings alone. Inspecting a home foreclosure can give you an idea of its true condition, as well as allow you to make estimates about any repairs that will need to be done, or any maintenance you’ll need to take care of before it’s habitable. These costs all factor into your overhead when you buy them home, so be sure to calculate them exactly. If you feel the need, arrange to have a contractor join you and provide an estimate on any repairs.
The more you know about a foreclosure, the better you can calculate how much its true value is after factoring in costs and approximate market values. Remember, there is a lot out there these days, so don’t be afraid to search out the best potential values. Follow these steps to make sure you’re making a decision to buy based on the best available information, and you’ll greatly increase your chances of making a smart investment.