Buying a REO or foreclosure in San Diego

What's an REO?

REO means Real Estate Owned. These are properties that have gone through foreclosure and are now owned by the bank or mortgage company. This is not the same as real estate up for foreclosure auction. If you buy a property during a foreclosure sale, you must pay at least the loan balance plus any interest and other fees accumulated during the foreclosure process. The buyer must also be ready to pay with cash in hand. And on top of all that, you'll accept the property completely as is. That possibly will consist of prevailing liens and even current tenants that may require removal.

A REO, on the other hand, is a much neater and attractive proposition. The REO property didn't find a buyer during foreclosure auction. The bank now owns it. The lender will attend 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. You should be aware that REOs may be exempt from standard disclosure requirements. In California, for example, banks do not have to give a Transfer Disclosure Statement, a document that ordinarily requires sellers to make known any defects of which they are knowledgeable.

Are REO's a bargain in San Diego?

It's commonly assumed that any REO must be a steal and an chance for easy money. This isn't always 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 typically anxious to sell it soon, they are also strongly motivated to get as much as they can for it. When contemplating 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. There are bargains with potential to make money, and many people do very well buying and selling foreclosures. But there are also many REO's that are not good buys and may not be money makers.

All set to make an offer?

Most mortgage companies have a REO department that you'll work with when 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. Before 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 receiving 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 unknown damage and cancel 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 counter offer. At this point it will be your choice whether to accept their counter, or submit another counter offer. Be aware, you'll be dealing with a process that generally involves several people at the bank, and they don't work evenings or weekends. It's typical for the process of offers and counter offers to take days or even weeks.