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When banks or other lenders offer mortgage loan, they see them as an investment, because they will earn money from the interest on the loan. If homeowners do not repay their mortgages, banks lose money. To salvage their investment, banks foreclose on homes with unpaid mortgages and sell the properties at foreclosure auctions. If a home doesn’t sell at auction, it becomes a real estate owned property, or REO property.
Why foreclosure auctions don’t always work
foreclosure auctions fail to bring in any bids. Banks or other mortgage lenders do not set foreclosure prices according to the home’s market value. The lenders try to cover their losses and fees. The foreclosure minimum bid price usually includes the balance of the unpaid mortgage loan, interest owed, attorney’s fees, and costs generated by the foreclosure process. Especially in a soft real estate market, the asking price could tower above market value.
When foreclosures become REOs
Once a property becomes an REO, the lender will prepare the house for sale, including removing the occupants, clearing liens on the property, and determining a price. Generally, lenders do not do any upgrades or repair work on REO properties, which are sold “as is.”
When the home is ready for sale, the lender will work with a broker to put the property on the market.
Finding an REO
Typically, even if the lender has an excess inventory REO, it will not offer a house at an unbelievably low price. In most cases, the lender and the broker have researched market fluctuations and recent comparable sales to determine a fair price. As with any property, you might find a great deal, but don’t expect REOs to be severely undervalued.
To find REO properties, you may have luck contacting lenders directly. Some lenders may be willing to provide you with a list of their REO properties available for sale. However, working with a real estate agent is an easier, and often more reliable, way to find REOs. The agent will be able to find several options in your area from more than one lender, and help guide you on the right price.
Making an offer
Buying an REO is a complex process. You will have to be a savvy negotiator to purchase the home at a price you want.
An offer on an REO should include a cover letter, stated willingness to buy the home “as is,” and an escape clause that lets you out of the deal if later inspection reveals extensive property damage. You usually won’t be able to inspect the REO before you send your offer.
To increase your chances of landing the REO, make your offer for or close to the asking price. However, if your research reveals the house is overpriced, you might decide to offer below asking price and explain your reasoning in a cover letter.
When you buy an REO, you can end up buying a good home at a good value. Given the level of complication, however, you will benefit from hiring a team of experts, such as Pedersen Real Estate Group, real estate attorney, and contractor, to help you navigate the deal.