Buying a foreclosed house—that’s a house repossessed by the bank because the owner defaulted on the mortgage payments—is not for the faint of heart. The fact is that the buying process is more complex and generally takes longer than the usual house-for-sale deal. But with some pre-planning, you can have it all: a good house and a good deal.
- Start with the money. Get pre-approved for a mortgage before house hunting begins. Good deals can go so quickly you won‘t have time to arrange for a loan. Also, money is power. Knowing you can get a mortgage as well as how much you will have gives you an edge during negotiations. Having your pre-approval, proof of funds, and credit information ready is crucial in scoring a great deal. Chances are if it’s a great property, someone else is also interested!
- Find a real estate agent who understands foreclosures. Their insight into the process, including time frames and bank requirements (which are frequently and frustratingly revealed one at a time) along with professional contacts such as house inspectors and contractors, is invaluable. Plus, it’s nice to have someone hold your hand during negotiations.
- Do your research. During the house search, check out neighborhoods and going sale prices as well as the usual due diligence legwork (school systems, recreational activities, etc.) before making an offer. This will be your home for many years and these are things you probably won’t be able to change, unlike wallpaper or bad carpeting.
- Know your budget. Many foreclosures are not sold in turn key condition. It’s important to plan how much money you have in order to make the necessary improvements in order to move in so that you don’t get in over your head. Most of these properties are sold “AS IS”, meaning the seller, in this the bank, will not be making repairs. A lot of the time the best deals are the ones that need a little TLC, so don’t shy away from easy repairs such as paint, flooring, and cosmetic updates that can be taken care of over time, but will bring value to the property, as well.
- Finally, don’t settle. If you don’t want a fixer-upper (remember to consider those costs when making an offer) but do want or need a four-bedroom two-bath house, look until you find one in an area where you want to live and at price you can afford. It’s out there, but no house is perfect. I would suggest making a list of things you would like in a home and another list of non-negotiables, so that when you have to make a quick decision, you will know what you can and cannot sacrifice.