Buying a foreclosed home is different in several important ways from buying a typical home. Being aware of these key differences can help you spot a bargain versus a property to pass up.

The Pros

The house will be vacant so once the deal is done, you would be able to move in right away. Sometimes the price will be competitive for the neighborhood you want to move into.

The Cons and How to Get Around Them

Only one real estate agent is involved

You will often see the abbreviation REO (Real Estate Owned); that is, the owner is a bank or other mortgage lender. They will usually only deal with one realtor, so you might not have a lot of chances to negotiate. If you do find an REO you love, see who the agent is, and meet with them. If you are very serious about moving forward quickly, you might also ask to meet the lender.

You need to be pre-approved

The one real estate agent will not deal with you unless and until you either have cash in hand for the house, or have a pre-approval letter from your mortgage lender. The pre-approval process can take several weeks while your prospective lender looks into your employment, pay stubs, and credit history (and your partner’s too). This means the house of your dreams could be bought by someone else by the time you get all your paperwork in order. The best deals will go quickly.

The one agent might be very busy

If there are a lot of foreclosed properties in your area, the one agent may be very rushed and not able to give you a lot of their time. Know what you want and ask to view only those properties that really match your needs and budget.

One price fits all

There is little room for negotiation on price, because the bank will want to recoup as much of their losses as possible on a foreclosed home in order to make up for the mortgage that has been defaulted upon. Check websites like Trulia and Zillow to see the typical prices houses have been recently sold for in that neighborhood, to be sure you really are getting a good deal.

The home may not be in great repair

Any issues found by the property inspection will need to be repaired by you, not the bank.

It might be badly maintained/a mess

People who lose their home will often leave it in a bad state of repair – or worse still, vandalize the property. They might also leave a lot of their things behind. The garden, guttering, plumbing and so on will not have been maintained. You might have trouble getting electricity, water and other utilities turned back on after the previous account holders defaulted.

Every home you wish to buy should be thoroughly inspected, and a detailed list of issues provided. Ask the realtor for recommendations for reliable inspectors. Also ask for recommendations for contractors who could carry out the needed repairs and get quotes. You can research contractors online as well, or ask friends and family if they know anyone reliable.

You can also assess how many of the jobs on the list you might be able to tackle yourself before you move in. In most cases, you should be able to handle cleaning and painting, but if you don’t have time, hire professionals to do the essentials.

Sales are usually speedy

The sales will usually go more quickly. However, if you feel too rushed or uncertain in any way, it is best to back off.

Use these factors to help you decide whether a foreclosed property is right for you.

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