Buying a foreclosure or REO property in

What's an REO?

REO's or Real Estate Owned are homes that have been foreclosed upon and are currently possessed by the bank or mortgage company. This is different than real estate 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 added during the foreclosure process. You must also be able to pay with cash in hand. Finally, you'll receive the property totally as is. That might comprise existing liens and even current tenants that need to be expelled.

A REO, conversely, is a much cleaner and attractive proposition. The REO property did not find a buyer during foreclosure auction. The lender now owns it. The bank will see to the removal of tax liens, evict occupants if needed and generally plan for the issuance of a title insurance policy to the buyer at closing. Note that REOs may be exempt from standard disclosure requirements. In California, for example, banks are exempt from giving a Transfer Disclosure Statement, a document that ordinarily requires sellers to tell you about any defects they are informed of.

Are REO's a bargain in Columbus?

It is occasionally assumed that any REO must be a steal and an possibility for easy money. This isn't always true. You have to be cautious about buying a REO if your intent is profit from the sell. While it's true that the bank is typically anxious to sell it quickly, they are also strongly interested to get as much as they can for it. When pondering 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. The bargains with money making potential exist, and many people do very well buying and selling foreclosures. But there are also many REO's that are not good buys and not likely to turn a profit.

Prepared to make an offer?

Most mortgage companies have a REO department that you'll work with when buying a REO property from them. Typically 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 find out 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 most commonly sell REO properties "as is", it may be in your best interest to include an inspection contingency in your offer that gives you time to check for hidden damage and terminate the offer if you find it.

As with making any offer on real estate, your offer may be more attractive if you can include documentation of your ability to pay, such as a pre-approval letter from a lender. Once you've made your offer, you can expect the bank to make a counter offer. Then it will be your choice whether to accept their counter, or make another counter offer. Understand, you'll be working with a process that probably involves multiple people at the bank, and they don't work evenings or weekends. It's quite common for the process of offers and counter offers to take days or even weeks.