Buying a foreclosure or REO property in

What's an REO?

REO's or Real Estate Owned are homes which have completed the foreclosure process and are now held by the bank or mortgage company. This is not the same as a property 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 prepared to pay with cash in hand. Finally, you'll get the property entirely as is. That might comprise current liens and even current occupants that may require removal.

A REO, on the contrary, is a much neater and attractive transaction. The REO property didn't find a buyer during foreclosure auction. Now the lender owns it. The bank will attend to the removal of tax liens, evict occupants if needed and generally arrange for the issuance of a title insurance policy to the buyer at closing. Note that REOs may be exempt from normal disclosure requirements. For example, in California, banks do not have to give a Transfer Disclosure Statement, a document that ordinarily requires sellers to make known any defects they are knowledgeable of.

Are REO's a bargain in Winston-Salem?

It is sometimes assumed that any REO must be a good deal and an possibility for easy money. This isn't necessarily true. You have to be very careful about buying a REO if your intent is make money. While it's true that the bank is typically anxious to sell it promptly, they are also strongly encouraged 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. The bargains with money making potential exist, and many people do very well flipping foreclosures. But there are also many REO's that are not good buys and not likely to turn a profit.

Prepared to make an offer?

Most mortgage companies 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 learn as much as you can about what they know regarding the condition of the property and what their process is for taking offers. Since banks usually 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 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 submitted your offer, you can expect the bank to counter offer. At this point it will be up to you to decide whether to accept their counter, or submit another counter offer. Understand, you'll be working with a process that usually involves a group of people at the bank, and they don't work evenings or weekends. It's quite common for the process of offers and counter offers to take days or even weeks.