Buying a foreclosure or REO property in

What is an REO?

REO stands for Real Estate Owned. These are properties that have been through foreclosure which the bank or mortage company currently possesses. This is unlike 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 willing to pay with cash in hand. And on top of all that, you'll accept the property completely as is. That may include current liens and even current occupants that may require eviction.

A REO, on the contrary, is a much neater and attractive option. The REO property did not find a buyer during foreclosure auction. Now the bank owns it. The bank will handle the elimination of tax liens, evict occupants if needed and generally organize for the issuance of a title insurance policy to the buyer at closing. Note that REOs may be exempt from normal disclosure requirements. For example, in California, banks do not have to give a Transfer Disclosure Statement, a document that typically requires sellers to make known any defects of which they are informed.

Are REO's a bargain in Santa Fe?

It's sometimes assumed that any REO must be a good buy and an opportunity for easy money. This isn't always true. You have to be very careful about buying a REO if your intent is profit from the sell. While it's true that the bank is often anxious to sell it fast, 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. There are bargains with potential to make money, and many people do very well buying and selling foreclosures. However there are also many REO's that are not good buys and may not be money makers.

Prepared to make an offer?

Most lenders have a REO department that you'll work with while buying a REO property from them. Commonly 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 learn as much as you can about what they know concerning the condition of the property and what their process is for taking offers. Since banks most commonly sell REO properties "as is", you may want 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 submitted your offer, you can expect the bank to respond with a counter offer. From there it will be up to you to decide whether to accept their counter, or make another counter offer. Realize, you'll be dealing with a process that usually involves multiple people at the bank, and they don't work evenings or weekends. It's not unusual for the process of offers and counter offers to take days or even weeks.