This article discusses some of the risks of a foreclosure auction and steps you can take to avoid them.

Investing in real estate by purchasing properties at foreclosure auctions can be a lucrative endeavor. However, there are many risks involved that can negatively affect the profitability of these investments. It is up to the investor to become educated about the process and seek any needed assistance from a real estate professional, and also have a high risk tolerance.

There are many different types of foreclosure auctions. There are Trustee Sale Foreclosure auctions. There are REO/Bank owned property auctions for properties that have already been foreclosed on. There are online foreclosure auctions. The risks of buying a foreclosure at auction are similar regardless of the type of auction.

Risks of a Foreclosure Auction

These risks can include:

  • Occupied properties
  • Limited or no inspection period completed prior to auction
  • Clouded Titles
  • Unpaid liens
  • No mortgage or appraisal contingencies
  • Non-refundable earnest deposits
  • Vandalism in the Home
  • Limited time to Look at Homes
  • The Speed of the Auction
  • No Seller Discounts or Warranties
  • Poorly Done Inspection
  • Owner Redemption Period
  • Possible low resale price
  • Other hidden Issues

Auction Price Risk

Everything moves quickly at an auction and if you bid impulsively without having a set price limit, you could end up having to pay too much for a property.

Occupancy Risks

Dealing with occupants is buyer’s responsibility and you might need to evict them after the purchase. Be aware of whether the property you are signing for is occupied or not.

Repair Cost Risks

Also, properties likely need repairs or general maintenance because the previous owners would have likely left it neglected as they went behind in their mortgage. Take such costs into account before deciding the final amount you are willing to pay. In many cases there can be major problems with the home because of deferred maintenance issues because the previous owner was loosing the home to the bank and did not take care of things.

Home Inspection Risk

Home inspections are usually done before bidding, but these are quick and not complete inspections. So, if you are not the winning bid you are out the cost of a home inspection. Some auctions will allow you up to 72 hours for inspections. But others will not allow full inspections at all. The best you can do is a “drive by inspection” and perhaps look up old online walk-through photos from previous open houses.

Knowing the Auction Rules

Each auction company may different rules for their auctions, so be sure to find out what they are beforehand. For example:

  • Is it sufficient to show a minimum deposit amount in cash or cashiers check? (for example 10%) Or do you need to show you have the ability to pay the entire minimum bid amount?
  • What happens if you’re in a redemption state and the property owner comes up with the funds?
  • What is the bidding procedure?
  • Will the auctioneer extend the auction if it detects more interest?
  • Is there a minimum reserve price on the property you’re interested in, or is it highest bidder wins?
  • etc…

Ways to Lower Risks of a Foreclosure Auction

Do a Title Search

Definitely make sure you pull a title report for all properties you intend to purchase at foreclosure auction, because the title may be cloudy. The bank may be unaware of fraud or pending liens on the property to be auctioned.

Do not assume title will be clear only because it’s a bank’s property. Banks always de-risk themselves by stating the buyer has done the required research and they will not be held liable for any liens or frauds.

Use an Experienced Realtor

It is highly recommended to talk to a Realtor before going to an auction. You can even use one to assist you through the entire process. Realtors are not paid as much to bring a buyer to auction as a normal sale, so this can be a useful investment if you’re new to the auction game. Most auction companies will allow a Realtor to represent the buyer at no cost to the buyer.

If you decide to purchase through the auction process without an agent, be aware that the auction company’s loyalty is to the seller.

Focus on Foreclosure Auctions

If you want to buy foreclosures at auction, plan on making that your full-time job. This is serious business when dealing with these types of properties. If you are an investor, this requires your A-game of bidding, time management, knowing the marketplace, and rehab skills. This likely means having a team in place to help you complete the entire process from purchase to sale.

Have Your Money Lined Up Beforehand

To participate in the auction interested parties must often deposit money, which can be 5-10% of the reserve price. If the bidder wins the property but fails to pay, he loses the deposit.

Auction companies typically require the winner to pay the remaining balance quickly. The total amount is usually due within two working days. In some instances 15% of the reserve price may be due within two working days, with the total amount due between within 15-30 days. Before participating, make sure you can arrange the required payments in the timeline provided.

If you plan to borrow, get a pre-approved loan from a bank, hard money lender, or private investor. Make sure they will lend on a foreclosed auction property. Also ensure the loan commitment letter will still be valid 15-30 days after the auction winner is announced.

Get Clear on Taxes

Before you bid, clarify with the bank on withholding tax rules for the property. You might have to pay out 1% of the agreement value from your own pocket. This issue is related to the previous owner and the lender who has control of the property.

You could get a good deal AND make significant profits if you follow these steps and avoid the risks of a foreclosure auction.

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