I have blogged previously on things a buyer should know before they buy a bank-owned foreclosure. Home values in Westchester have come down quite a bit since the "Great Correction," which has brought out many people who wouldn't have been candidates for ownership when prices in New York were unsustainably high. Foreclosures contribute to that pricing change very impactfully. Since a number of buyers I am now working with are seeking to buy an REO in earnest (and who can blame them? "Affordable home" and "Westchester County" are seldom uttered in the same sentence), I have a few observations.
- Lowball offers won't work with aggressively priced REOs. It wasn't long ago that you couldn't find a decent house in Yonkers for under $400,000. Then, the line was lowered to $300,000. We now have bank-owned foreclosures priced in the $80,000-$130,000 range. The interest level in these properties is enormous, as those prices are less than that of a vacant lot. Making a $100,000 offer on a $125,000 listing which whill probably end up selling for $140,000 in a bidding war is a big waste of your time and your agent's time. One buyer I worked with in the last 2 weeks realized this on her own; her agent was appreciative.
- Pre-approvals aren't optional. Once a house is on the market, the asset manager at the bank wants it gone yesterday. They won't tie up the house under contract with a an unqualified buyer who can't close. The people at the bank don't know you; the only way they'll have any assurance that you'll perform is a pre approval. They simply won't take an offer without a preapproval seriously, and many REO brokers cannot even upload the offer to the bank without one.
- The lawyer you get for free through your job or union probably isn't the best one to use. I think it is great that your union or employer will help you set up your will and a number of other low-impact legal services for no or low cost. However, a real estate transaction, especially the purchase of an REO, is a high-impact legal service that requires proactive advocacy. Your job-related attorney isn't set up for that. Let me make myself perfectly clear: If you are going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, why would you scrimp $1000 on the attorney? If you use an attorney that won't return calls until Friday (or at all), and other acts of indifference, it will sabotage the transaction. You need a lawyer versed in foreclosures the same way you need a dentist for your teeth. They are specialists.
- The bank will not consider a contingent offer. The bank will not consider a contingent offer. A mortgage contingency is OK; selling the home you currently own isn't. Sell your current home or rent it, but you can't make that a contingency of the purchase. There are no exceptions. None. Ever.
- "As is" means "as is." Other than egregious environmental problems like a bad oil tank, you can't get anything fixed.
- 203(k) loans don't happen overnight. 203k and other rehabilitation loans for buying a home in need of rehabilitation are great, but they require enormous red tape and paperwork. They take longer. Take nothing for granted. If the loan officer wants something, get it to him or her immediately. If you go past deadlines, you may not get an extension and you may lose your deposit.
People that want to buy a foreclosure often want a bargain but too often don't understand that what they save in price is paid for in other ways by bureaucracy, bank regulations, and other forms of red tape. Banks are not typical sellers. They are enormous monolithic institutions that don't make exceptions for circumstantial requests. Understanding this will help you going in to avoid additional stress. Forewarned is forearmed!