One of the best known, but least understood, ways of buying foreclosure properties is to buy them at a live foreclosure auction. Depending upon where you live, a foreclosure auction will generally be held either at your county courthouse or in some other public place. Sometimes the auction will be conducted by the county sheriff and sometimes by a proxy appointed by the court. Regardless of who is chosen to conduct the auction, the result is the same: the property is sold to the highest bidder.
The first bid is typically made for the foreclosing lender by whoever is representing that company. The bid will generally be for the amount that's owed, although there doesn't have to be any actual exchange of money involved. If no one else puts in a higher bid, property ownership reverts to the lender.
In the majority of cases, no one shows up for the foreclosure sale except the proxies for the lender and whoever may be running the auction. That's especially true if there's no room for profit between what's owed and the market value of a property.
Make no mistake: foreclosure auctions aren't generally places for beginning investors, because you'll need access to either significant amounts of cash or a large line of credit that you can tap into quickly. If you have either of those resources at your disposal, you can sometimes find great buys at foreclosure auctions, but you have to be careful, because most of the time the amount owed doesn't leave much room for profit, if any. The properties that do contain a significant amount of room for a profit are most likely to be attended by a bigger group of investors. The key is to do your homework well, because a mistake can be very costly.
If you want to check into auctions yourself, the first thing you have to do is find out which publication is used to list them. Often it's the legal section of your local newspaper, although some larger cities use specialized business papers to advertise foreclosure sales. There are also various services that will notify you of foreclosures in your target area if you subscribe. If you happen to be interested in a particular property, you can contact the firm in charge of the auction for information about the time and place of the auction. Call the day before the auction to see if the defect has been cured or the sale has been delayed for some reason.
Always remember, if you bid, you must follow through with the purchase. There's no turning back once you've committed to buy a foreclosure property at an auction. So do your homework. It would be wise for you to choose a few target neighborhoods and specialize in those areas, so you'll know how much profit is available even before you consider bidding on a certain property.
Although it's rare, you can occasionally find some great deals at foreclosure auctions. If nothing else, you'll find it educational just to attend a few, just to see how the system works.
Copyright © 2006 Jeanette J. Fisher
NOTE: Government-owned foreclosures have an entirely different bidding system. See How to Buy a HUD Repo
Jeanette Fisher teaches beginning real estate investors how to make money in any real estate market fixing and flipping houses at http://www.doghousetodollhousefordollars.com