Buying a Foreclosure

A foreclosure is a legal process through which a lender takes ownership of a property from a borrower who has defaulted on their mortgage payments. When a homeowner fails to make their mortgage payments for an extended period, usually several months, the lender has the right to initiate foreclosure proceedings.

The foreclosure process begins with the lender sending the homeowner a notice of default, informing them of their delinquency, and providing a certain period to catch up on payments. If the homeowner does not resolve the issue, the lender will proceed with a foreclosure lawsuit, during which the court validates the lender’s claim and orders the property’s sale to recover the unpaid debt.

There are different types of foreclosures, including judicial and non-judicial foreclosures, depending on the state’s laws. In a judicial foreclosure, the lender initiates a lawsuit in court to obtain a foreclosure order. In a non-judicial foreclosure, the foreclosure process takes place outside of the court system as outlined in the mortgage agreement or state laws.

Foreclosures can have significant financial and credit implications for homeowners, as they not only lose their property but also face damage to their credit scores. However, foreclosed properties can present opportunities for buyers to purchase real estate at below-market prices. It’s important for buyers to thoroughly research the condition of foreclosed properties and understand the potential risks and challenges associated with purchasing a property through the foreclosure process.

Checklist prior to purchasing an REO

  • Do a title search – make sure that when you purchase a foreclosure you are the only person who has any ownership claim
  • Check for liens – The title company will order an MLS (Municipal Lien Search) to find out if there are any liens against the property because you will be responsible for paying them
  • Check for a second mortgage – you don’t want to be surprised by an extra mortgage that you will need to pay
  • Know how good of a “bargain” you’re getting – foreclosures are sold “as is” and in many cases, you will not be able to do a proper inspection. You may end up paying thousands of dollars to repair the property before it is fit to be lived in.

It is also important to consider that there are different types of foreclosure properties and each type comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. The different types of foreclosure purchases are:

  • Pre-foreclosure
  • Auction
  • Real Estate Owned (REO), or “bank owned”


The pre-foreclosure process refers to the period before a property is officially foreclosed upon by a lender. It begins when a homeowner falls behind on mortgage payments, prompting the lender to issue a notice of default. During this phase, the homeowner has the opportunity to rectify the situation by catching up on payments or negotiating with the lender for a possible loan modification or alternative solutions. If these efforts fail and the homeowner cannot bring the mortgage current, the property will move into the foreclosure process, which can lead to the eventual sale of the property to recover the outstanding debt. The pre-foreclosure stage represents a critical window where homeowners and lenders can explore alternatives to foreclosure and potentially find a solution to avoid the loss of the property.


The auction process in real estate refers to the public sale of a property to the highest bidder. Typically associated with foreclosed properties, auctions are conducted as a result of the foreclosure process when a homeowner defaults on their mortgage. The auction takes place at a specified location, often the courthouse or another designated venue, and interested buyers bid on the property in an open, competitive setting.

The property is awarded to the highest bidder, provided their bid meets certain requirements and is accepted by the seller or lender. Auctions offer an opportunity for buyers to acquire properties at potentially lower prices, but they require careful research, preparation, and a clear understanding of the terms of the sale


After a property goes through the foreclosure process and ownership transfers from the homeowner to the lender, it becomes what is known as a Real Estate Owned (REO) property. At this point, the lender is the official owner of the property. Here’s what typically happens to a property after foreclosure:

Assessment and Repair: The lender assesses the property’s condition and determines if any repairs or renovations are needed to make the property marketable. This might include fixing any damage, addressing safety issues, and ensuring the property is in suitable condition for potential buyers.

Listing for Sale: The lender, often through its asset management department or a real estate agent, lists the REO property for sale on the open market. The property is marketed similarly to any other real estate listing, with photos, descriptions, and information about its features.

Property Value Determination: The lender works with appraisers and real estate professionals to determine an appropriate market value for the property. The listing price is typically based on this valuation and comparable properties in the area.

Marketing and Sale: The REO property is marketed to potential buyers, including investors, homebuyers, and sometimes even other real estate professionals. Interested buyers submit offers through their agents or directly to the listing agent.

Offer Consideration: The lender reviews offers and may negotiate with potential buyers to reach an agreement on the sale price and terms. This process can take some time as the lender evaluates the offers and selects the most suitable one.

Acceptance and Closing: Once the lender accepts an offer, the closing process begins. Buyers go through the usual steps of inspections, title searches, and finalizing the mortgage (if applicable).

Property Transfer: At closing, ownership of the REO property transfers from the lender to the new buyer. The property no longer carries the stigma of foreclosure, and the new owner takes possession.

It’s important to note that while REO properties can offer potential buyers an opportunity to purchase at a potentially lower price, they might come with certain risks. These risks include the property’s condition, limited disclosures from the lender about the property’s history, and potential competition from other buyers in the market for REOs. Due diligence, working with experienced professionals, and understanding the specifics of the property are key when considering purchasing a property that has gone through foreclosure.

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