Buying a REO or foreclosure in Winston-Salem

What's an REO?

REO is Real Estate Owned. These are homes that have been foreclosed upon and are presently owned by the bank or mortgage company. This differs from real estate up for foreclosure auction. If you buy a property during a foreclosure sale, you must pay at least the loan balance plus any interest and other fees accrued during the foreclosure process. The buyer must also be willing to pay with cash in hand. To top everything off, you'll accept the property completely as is. That might comprise existing liens and even current residents that may require eviction.

A REO, conversely, is a much neater and attractive proposition. 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 plan for the issuance of a title insurance policy to the buyer at closing. Note that REOs may be exempt from normal disclosure requirements. For instance, in Calfornia, banks are exempt from giving a Transfer Disclosure Statement, a document that typically requires sellers to reveal any defects they are knowledgeable of.

Is an REO in Winston-Salem a bargain?

It is commonly presume that any REO must be a steal and an possibility for easy money. This isn't always true. You have to be cautious about buying a REO if your intent is make a profit. While it's true that the bank is often anxious to sell it fast, they are also strongly encouraged to get as much as they can for it. When contemplating 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 buying foreclosures. However there are also many REO's that are not good buys and may lose money.

Prepared to make an offer?

Most banks have a REO department that you'll work with when buying a REO property from them. Usually 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 find out as much as you can about what they know about the condition of the property and what their process is for taking offers. Since banks almost always sell REO properties "as is", it's often prudent to include an inspection contingency in your offer that gives you time to check for unseen damage and cancel the offer if you find it.

As with making any offer on real estate, providing documentation of your ability to pay may make your offer more attractive, such as a pre-approval letter from a lender. Once you've made your offer, you can expect the bank to make a counter offer. At this point it will be your decision whether to accept their counter, or offer a counter to the counter offer. Be aware, you'll be contending with a process that most likely involves several people at the bank, and they don't work evenings or weekends. It's typical for the process of offers and counter offers to take days or even weeks.