If you're looking for a real estate bargain, you might consider buying a home that is in pre-foreclosure. This period occurs after a lender has filed a notice of default against homeowners who have stopped making their mortgage payments and before the lender puts the home up for sale at auction. During this period, you can approach the owner of the home and attempt to buy the property at what is sometimes a deep discount.
Scan your local newspaper for foreclosure listings. Visit online sources such as RealtyTrac.com, which also list foreclosure properties across the country. Hire a real estate agent who can find local homes that are in the pre-foreclosure process. The first step to buying such a home, of course, involves finding one.
Drive by any pre-foreclosed properties that interest you. Take a long look at the neighborhood to see if you'd be comfortable living there. If you only want to purchase the home, renovate it and re-sell it, determine if the neighborhood is one that will attract a large number of buyers.
Contact the owners of pre-foreclosed homes that interest you. You can do this by sending a letter or making a phone call, if the homeowners are listed. You can also ask your real estate agent to contact the owners for you. No matter how you eventually contact the owners, ask if they are interested in selling their home.
Negotiate a sales price if the owners are interested in selling. Not all will be. Some might still be working on a plan to keep their homes; they may be applying for a loan modification from their lender, or trying to find enough money to pay back the mortgage payments they've missed. If the owners are willing to sell, though, try to reach a deal in which you are paying below market rate for the home. The owners, though, might require that you pay enough for the house to cover the amount of money they owe on their mortgage loan.
Instruct your real estate agent to contact the homeowners' lender with the news that you do want to purchase the house, and that you and the owners have agreed to a sales price. You may be able to work out a short-sale arrangement with the lender. In this case, the lender agrees to sell the home to you for less than what the current owners owe on their mortgage loans.
Hire a real estate attorney to draw up a purchase agreement for the house, and set a closing date for the real estate transaction. At the closing table, you will officially take over title of the house.
Things You'll Need
Address of a foreclosed property
Real estate agent
Real estate attorney