Are You Right For Foreclosures?

The key to making money in foreclosures isn’t sizing up a particular property — it’s knowing yourself.

Specifically, your timetable, temperament, budget, fix-up skills (or access to them), and intended holding period.

If you’re deficient in any one category, the odds of success go way down; two, the odds become infinitesimal.

Timetable. Before embarking on a lender-mediated property, ask yourself: can you wait a week or longer to find out if your offer is accepted? (1-2 days is the norm for non-bank deals)

If you’re pursuing a “short sale,” can you wait weeks — maybe months — for the bank(s) to approve the sale?

In the meantime, you’d better make sure you don’t have to vacate an apartment or house — or have access to a friend or parents’ basement, if you do.

Temperament. More questions: will you be OK if you happen to get bumped from the house at the last minute — possibly weeks or months after acceptance?

How do you feel about “swallowing” such lender-dictated terms as forfeiting your earnest money before you know whether you qualify for a loan; or accepting the home “As Is,” with no Seller disclosures or legal recourse in the event of major problems?

Budget. Often times, the purchase price of a foreclosure is just the “cost of admission”; the subsequent fix-up costs can be equal or greater than the cost of the house.

Do you know what needs to be fixed? What doesn’t? Who will be doing the repairs?

Fix-up Skills. If you’re a contractor, you already know the answer to that last question. If you’re not, what’s your strategy for getting bids? Contractors come in all sizes and shapes. Some prefer to do bids, others work on a time-and-material basis.

Holding Period. The same foreclosure glut that let you buy low might very well turn and around and bite you as a quick Seller. Especially if you’re planning on a market turnaround to generate your profit (vs. sweat equity), you should have a 2-3 year holding period, minimum.

Bottom line: is there money to be made in foreclosures and short sales? Sure.

But I’m not convinced that there isn’t more money — not to mention time — to be lost.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.
1 Response
  1. fliprascal

    Yes people may be making money on foreclosures. Yet it seems that many investors are the ones buying the houses. Often they advertise for workers to do the rehab and offer only a fraction of the typical going rate for skilled trades people. Knowing that many tades people are out of work and hungry. Then they make decisions on how to proceed with the rehab on a make money fast basis. They don’t consider the long term health of the house or the neighborhood. Also where is the city or local governments in all this. When I as a home buyer, wanting to be an owner occupant I get out bid by a “cash” offer. Wouldn’t the city be better off with owners living in these foreclosures? I suspect the selling realtor has a relationship with some investors and is not keeping the bidding process fair. There may be city money to help fix up or buy foreclosures, but not much chance for an average person to buy anything but the leftovers with all the “investors” out there spending their days trolling.

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