Hunting for property in pre-foreclosure
By Ilyce Glink and and Samuel J. Tamkin,
I am a real estate agent in Georgia and I live in Roswell. I sold my home very quickly and am looking for a home under $300,000 in this area. I have made five offers in the last two weeks. Unfortunately, they have been under full price and I have lost all of them.
The market is crazy in this area. I have found a property that I think is or will soon be a foreclosure in Roswell. I love the home and the area and really want to get this home. I have talked to the neighbors, but they know nothing about the home other than the owners’ names and where they used to work. What is the best way for me to see it and find out any info about the home?
I have looked on the multiple listing service (MLS); it was never posted. I have searched the county tax records. I see the homeowners’ names, but nothing more. How do I see who is legally in charge of this home? Is there a report that I can find or buy that shows pre-foreclosures?
A: Congratulations on selling your home so quickly. We have been hearing that in some neighborhoods across the country — even in Georgia — home buyers are starting to make offers and sellers, including REO (“real estate owned”) lenders, are accepting them. It is the beginning of the normalization of the marketplace, which is so good to see after the past five years.
We’re sorry that your bids haven’t been the winning ones. If you have spied a property that you believe will go into foreclosure but hasn’t yet, you can look up the name of the lender through title records. You can contact the lender directly to see if the home has been put into foreclosure and is available for sale. If not, then you may be able to contact the homeowners and try to do a short sale with them.
The problem is if the property is in the netherworld: not in foreclosure deed-in-lieu, and also abandoned. In that case, you probably can’t do anything except wait for the property to go through the foreclosure auction and perhaps pick it up there.
Specific information about properties is easier to get in some states than in others. In some states, you can go online and review the title file for a specific property, review its history and even download documents relating to the title for the home. Other states make that process more difficult. However, all states require that home lenders record the mortgage or lien documents. When those documents are recorded, they generally become part of the public record and there is generally a way to view the documents.
You might have to drive to the office where documents are recorded in your county and see if you can have a copy of the document made and given to you. You may have to pay a small fee, but if you get the right document, you should be able to determine the name of the lender on the property, the original amount of the loan and other significant loan terms.
There are companies that compile information on properties that are delinquent or going through foreclosure, and they make this information available to prospective real estate buyers, often for a fee.
Finally, if a lender files to foreclose on a property in a state where it needs a court judgment to do so (Georgia isn’t one of them), you can go to the courthouse and review the court file. You may even be able to review some or all of the court filing through an online search.
Note, however, that even if you find out who the lender is, if the entity holding the mortgage is a big-box lender, you may have a hard time finding any other information about the property and may only be able to buy it when it goes for sale on the courthouse steps. If the lender gets title to the property and lists it on the MLS, then you can try to buy it as you have tried to buy other properties.
As an agent, you know that there is no one right property. If you get a property at the right price and on the right terms, it’s right for you at the moment. If you are persistent and a little wily, you might get your hands on a property that would otherwise go to a savvier investor. But if a home isn’t for sale, then it isn’t for sale — and your tenacity won’t help.
Ilyce R. Glink is an author and nationally syndicated columnist. Her latest book is “Buy, Close, Move In!” Samuel J. Tamkin is a real estate lawyer in Chicago. If you have questions for them, write to Real Estate Matters Syndicate, P.O. Box 366, Glencoe, Ill. 60022, or contact them through ThinkGlink.com.