It is not uncommon for a client to ask me about purchasing foreclosure homes. We hear the misleading ads on the radio, “I just bought a home for $199 a month”. While that number is totally unrealistic in Marin, foreclosures can be a bargain. In some parts of the country banks and other owners have foreclosure auctions, other than the occasional homeowner (usually with an unrealistic reserve) I have not seen this in Marin. Although our foreclosure rate is significantly up from prior years it still is very low and most foreclosed properties are taken back by the bank.
In Marin, properties in foreclosure are sold at the court-house steps. Buyers with cashiers checks (for the full amount) bid against each other and the bank. The bank does not need a cashiers check because it is their loan that would be paid off. Okay, get this straight, you need cash to buy the home, often you have never seen the inside of the house, and you many not be sure the title is completely clean. Once you win the auction you can get title, go to a bank and then (after you bought the home) try to get a loan. You also get to evict the occupants and finally see the inside of the home you just purchased. The experienced buyers have lots of cash and make a bundle on most of them but do loose their shirts on about one in ten. This is a rich person’s game as most of us don’t have the extra cash laying around and can’t afford our one purchase to be the dog that is a money looser.
So the court-house auction does not work for most of us but the next best thing is post foreclosure, bank owned property (REO – real estate owned by the bank). Once a bank takes a home back they want to sell it quickly because they are in the business of lending money, not owing excess homes. These REO homes are priced (usually) realistically, as the banks wants to dump them within a month or two. Caution here; just because a home is an REO does not mean it is a good deal and the banks will negotiate.
If you are interested in looking for these homes ask your agent (or me if you don’t have one) as it is easy to do a search in the Marin MLS.