Can a real estate professional help you to buy a foreclosure? There are some nuances to this answer, but in short, it depends. We haven’t had many foreclosures in recent years, but once in awhile we find them popping up here and there.
There are several stages in the foreclosure related sales in California. Often, homes somewhere in this quagmire are listed on our Silicon Valley area MLS or multiple listing service. If a property is listed in the MLS, then yes, we Realtors can help home buyers with a distressed sale purchase.
The stages of foreclosure
- Pre-foreclosure (where payments have been missed and a Notice of Default or NOD has been filed – sometimes these homes are on the market and included in the MLS.
If they’re in the MLS, I can help.
If these properties are for sale, often these are short sales (but short sales are not always in pre-foreclosure – they may not have missed any payments).
- Trustee’s sale, or actual foreclosure on the courthouse steps. This does not involve the MLS or Realtors at all. There is literally no role for the real estate agent here unless you, as the buyer, want to pay the commission (most buyers don’t in this circumstance).
There are some big caveats and warnings!
First, often what’s owed against the home is more than it’s worth and the only way to purchase a home here is to pay off all the debts (so it may not be much of a deal!). Some buyers who “bought” a home actually have only purchased the second deed of trust, not the first, and are left empty handed.
Second, if you buy here, you get NO inspection contingency and must pay cash for the house. End of story – no backing out. Worse, you cannot inspect it ahead of time!
Third, you are likely to be bidding against flippers and builders who can more affordably rehab the home than you or I could do.
There are a lot of risks, so buyer beware!
- Bank owned or REO. REO means Real Estate Owned (by the bank).
These are usually listed on the MLS and if so, I can help you with it. Sometimes banks hold onto them between the trustee’s sale and prior to listing them with a broker. Often this is only for a month or two but sometimes it’s longer. If it’s not on the MLS, it’s very very hard, or maybe impossible, to buy it.
Want to buy a foreclosure? Want professional help to do so?
While it’s not hard to locate homes where owners have missed some payments, it should not be assumed that these houses are either for sale or that the owners have any intention of selling them. In my opinion, it would be harassment if consumers showed up on their doorsteps trying to purchase a house where a payment has been missed.
Most, maybe all, of the residents there would be offended. They may be trying to get a loan modification (it does happen, I’ve known people to work through it that way) or have family & friends helping them to get back on track. If it is not listed in the MLS (which you can find at MLSListings.com – the public portal of our agent multiple listing service), the odds are overwhelmingly against it being available to you.
The short answer to the question “Can a real estate agent help you to buy a foreclosure?” is that the answer is generally NO if it’s an auction on the courthouse steps.
See also these much older articles from the downturn:
So you think you want to buy a Silicon Valley short sale?
Short sale and REO articles on the Live in Los Gatos blog (old articles)