Buying a foreclosure or REO property in

What is an REO?

REO's or Real Estate Owned are houses that have been foreclosed upon and are presently owned by the bank or mortgage company. This is different than a property up for foreclosure auction. When buying 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 accept the property one-hundred percent as is. That possibly could comprise prevailing liens and even current tenants that may require expulsion.

A REO, conversely, is a more tidy and attractive proposition. The REO property didn't find a buyer during foreclosure auction. The bank now owns it. The lender will see to the elimination of tax liens, evict occupants if needed and generally arrange for the issuance of a title insurance policy to the buyer at closing. You should be aware that REOs may be exempt from normal disclosure requirements. In California, for example, banks are exempt from giving a Transfer Disclosure Statement, a document that normally requires sellers to reveal any defects they are informed of.

Are REO's a bargain in Tampa?

It is commonly assumed that any REO must be a good buy 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 often anxious to sell it fast, they are also strongly motivated 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. It is possible to find REOs with money-making potential, and many people do very well buying and selling foreclosures. However there are also many REO's that are not good buys and may lose money.

Time to make an offer?

Most mortgage companies have a REO department that you'll work with in 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 learn as much as you can about what they know regarding the condition of the property and what their process is for getting 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 unseen damage and cancel 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. Once you've submitted your offer, you can expect the bank to counter offer. From there it will be up to you to decide whether to accept their counter, or submit another counter offer. Understand, you'll be contending with a process that usually involves multiple people at the bank, and they don't work evenings or weekends. It's not uncommon for the process of offers and counter offers to take days or even weeks.