Buying a foreclosure or REO property in
What's an REO?
REO is Real Estate Owned. These are properties which have gone through foreclosure which the bank or mortage company presently owns. This is different than a property up for foreclosure auction. When buying a property during a foreclosure sale, you must pay at least the loan balance plus any interest and other fees amassed during the foreclosure process. You must also be willing to pay with cash in hand. To top everything off, you'll accept the property totally as is. That could consist of current liens and even current occupants that may require removal.
A REO, by contrast, is a more tidy and attractive transaction. The REO property was unable to find a buyer during foreclosure auction. Now the bank owns it. The bank will attend to the removal of tax liens, evict occupants if needed and generally organize for the issuance of a title insurance policy to the buyer at closing. You should be aware that REOs may be exempt from normal disclosure requirements. In California, for example, banks do not have to give a Transfer Disclosure Statement, a document that normally requires sellers to tell you about any defects of which they are informed.
Is an REO in Los Gatos a bargain?
It's occasionally though that any REO must be a good deal and an chance for easy money. This isn't always true. You have to be very careful about buying a REO if your intent is profit from the sell. While it's true that the bank is usually anxious to sell it fast, they are also strongly motivated to get as much as they can for it. When considering the value of a REO, you need to look closely at comparable sales in the neighborhood and be sure to take into account the time and cost of any repairs or remodeling needed to prepare the house for resale. There are bargains with potential to make money, and many people do very well flipping foreclosures. Still there are also many REO's that are not good buys and may not be money makers.
Prepared to make an offer?
Most lenders have a REO department that you'll work with while buying a REO property from them. Commonly the REO department will use a listing agent to get their REO properties listed on the local MLS. Prior to making your offer, you'll want to contact either the listing agent or REO department at the bank and discover as much as you can about what they know about the condition of the property and what their process is for accepting offers. Since banks almost always sell REO properties "as is", you'll want to be sure and include an inspection contingency in your offer that gives you time to check for unknown damage and withdraw the offer if you find it.
As with making any offer on real estate, you'll make your offer more attractive if you can include documentation of your ability to pay, such as a pre-approval letter from a lender. Once you've presented your offer, you can expect the bank to counter offer. From there it will be your choice whether to accept their counter, or make another counter offer. Be aware, you'll be working with a process that most likely involves multiple people at the bank, and they don't work evenings or weekends. It's not uncommon for the process of offers and counter offers to take days or even weeks.