Buying a foreclosure or REO property in

What is an REO?

REO is Real Estate Owned. These are houses which have been foreclosed upon which the bank or mortage company now holds. This is not the same as 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 amassed during the foreclosure process. The buyer must also be ready to pay with cash in hand. To top everything off, you'll receive the property totally as is. That could include existing liens and even current occupants that need to be expelled.

A REO, by contrast, is a more tidy and attractive deal. The REO property didn't find a buyer during foreclosure auction. The bank now owns it. The lender will deal with the elimination of tax liens, evict occupants if needed and generally prepare for the issuance of a title insurance policy to the buyer at closing. Note that REOs may be exempt from typical disclosure requirements. For example, in California, banks do not have to give a Transfer Disclosure Statement, a document that typically requires sellers to disclose any defects of which they are aware.

Is an REO in Murphy a bargain?

It's sometimes believed that any REO must be a good buy and an possibility for easy money. This isn't always true. You have to be prudent about buying a REO if your intent is to make money off of it. While it's true that the bank is often anxious to sell it quickly, they are also strongly interested to get as much as they can for it. When pondering 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. Still there are also many REO's that are not good buys and may lose money.

All set to make an offer?

Most mortgage companies have a REO department that you'll work with when buying a REO property from them. Normally 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 about the condition of the property and what their process is for getting offers. Since banks almost always 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 retract the offer if you find it.

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

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