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Home Buyers Guide
Five Tips for Buying a Foreclosure Property Below Market Value
By Jim Saccacio, RealtyTrac Chief Executive Officer

If you feel like the escalating costs of real estate have priced you out of the market, think again. It may be time to investigate the vast opportunities available in the foreclosures market.

For people willing to do a bit of homework, the foreclosure market offers some of the best opportunities available in real estate today. Experts point toward significant growth in available foreclosure properties, so there’s never been a better time to line up your resources and educate yourself about this previously hidden market. It’s not unusual to save from 10 to 30 percent of the market value on a foreclosure property, and certain properties offer savings of 50 percent or more! There really are bargains out there. You just have to know where to look.

Web-based services such as RealtyTrac give consumers access to foreclosure and pre-foreclosure information that was previously available only to professional real estate brokers and investors. Today, homebuyers can use these services to identify and research potential home purchases, as well as to find the tools and professional resources they need to help them close the deal. RealtyTrac, which provides all the foreclosure data for both MSN House and Home and Yahoo! Real Estate, has already compiled a list of over 550,000 foreclosure properties across the country.

The keys to a successful foreclosure property purchase are diligence and patience, along with taking an educated approach to investing in this market. RealtyTrac CEO Jim Saccacio offers five tips to help you close a deal on a foreclosure property:

1. Learn about the different types of properties and the foreclosure process.
Not all foreclosures are the same! You need to educate yourself on the difference between the three basic types of properties, including notice-of-default (NOD), notice of trustee sale (NTS), and real-estate-owned REO, as well as the positive and negative aspects of buying at each stage of the foreclosure cycle.

As a rule of thumb, the best savings can be made at the pre-foreclosure stage, where home owners can avoid a foreclosure and lenders can save the time and cost involved in going through the process. Another critical point in the process is immediately prior to the auction date, when all parties might be most open to a last-minute solution.

2. Secure financing early
It’s important for a buyer to be pre-qualified before engaging in discussions with a seller. This ensures that the buyer is in a financial position to purchase the property, and is in the strongest possible position to negotiate.

3. Engage a real estate agent as a “buyer’s representative”
There’s a distinct difference between a buyer’s and a seller’s representative. Buyer’s representatives have the home buyer’s interests at heart, and are charged with finding the right property and negotiating the best price for their clients. Picking the right real estate agent will make your life much easier. Ideally, select an agent who specializes in the foreclosures market and has specific experience in REO properties.

4. Do your homework
Purchasing foreclosure properties is somewhat more risky than buying traditional real estate properties. But, with that risk comes reward in the form of much higher potential savings. With the right examination and due diligence, buyers can significantly reduce the risks. As with any purchase, timing is everything! But, it makes sense to give any property under consideration a thorough examination, including determining its condition and value, finding out the amount in default and the remaining loan balance, and running a legal investing report to make sure the property is free of any financial liabilities. Of course, it never hurts to foster a positive relationship with the seller!

5. Make a realistic offer
If you want to be taken seriously as a buyer, you must be realistic when preparing an offer. Lenders aren’t likely to give properties away, particularly in a real estate market where prices continue to rise. Additionally, homeowners in financial distress may be difficult to deal with, particularly early in the foreclosure process. An educated buyer—one who knows how much is owed on the property and what its market value is—can usually come up with a realistic offer; one that offers significant savings, while meeting the requirements of the lender.