Ever bought a foreclosure? Tell us about it!
Emily Hurley
April 24, 2014
Have you ever purchased a home that was in foreclosure? What was your experience like and what did you learn? Would you do it all again?

Share your experience! (Photos encouraged)

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The condominium I just purchased was a foreclosed property. I made sure I got a thorough inspection before I finalized anything. The only differences I noticed since I had a good realtor and got my mortgage pre-approved through my credit union was that the turnaround on some of the process was a bit slower because I was dealing with a bank (committee) instead of an individual. Additionally, since the bank was not going to fix or repair anything, I made sure to take out a home warranty to cover the appliances etc. I've had to get a few things repaired before I was able to move in, but I'm quite happy and would do it again.
3 Likes    Bookmark   Thanked by Emily Hurley    April 25, 2014 at 9:43AM
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We purchased a foreclosed house that turned out to have been built in 1830 (Full timbers as the floor joists were the clue) for $35,000. Many things needed fixing/updating, but we did most of the work ourselves, including the kitchen that only had a sink and a range in a room 12 X 20. We sold the house for $170,000, but it was originally listed @$270,000 just as the "bubble" burst - bad timing there. But we still made over $100,000 profit including the funds we put in to update and live comfortably in the house.

If asked if I would recommend buying a foreclosure, I would say yes for the monetary benefit but keeping in mind the patience you need to have to get through closing, etc. with the bank controlling the deal. The bank we purchased from said they wanted a 2 week closing; then we closed 2 months later. I am told that was quick.
2 Likes    Bookmark   Thanked by Emily Hurley    April 26, 2014 at 7:20AM
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I oversaw the rehabs of several foreclosed houses ...

1 - Be aware of sabotage. One idiot had sawn through some of the water supply lines, so when we had the water turned back on water came out of various pipes all over the place. He also had removed some thin supply lines and faucets and squirted caulk in them and reinstalled them.

I just removed them and replaced them.

I have heard about, but never personally saw, concrete poured into drains, and wire swapping or cutting.

2 - If there is a fix-up grant, it's not as good as you might hope. Your selections of materials are low-end FHA minimum, you must pick a contractor from the list you are given, and by the time the GC finishes subbing out to a company who in turn subs it to someone who hires some yahoo to actually do the work on piecework basis there's not much craftsmanship or materials quality.

We had one repo like that, and if I had picked my own contractors I would have had way better materials and installation quality for the same money.

I had to have the painters back several times: they had a hard time grasping the concept of shiny on the woodwork and flat on the walls, and full coverage on both walls and woodwork (the cheap paint they were using didn't help). They also didn't believe in masking anything, and that cleaning the sprayer between the shiny and the flat was not needed.

The carpet installers left a 1/2 inch gap between two sections because they didn't measure right and slung adhesive boogers onto the freshly painted walls.

I had to call the cops on the first roofer (working solo) because he was visibly drunk and refused to leave the property. The second was sober but didn't have the right tools and tried to borrow money from me to buy tools ... the third one

IMPORTANT: If you have one of these grants, take a good set of BEFORE pictures and then take good photos of the problems and DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING until it's done in a "workmanlike manner".

Channel your inner witch and keep saying "yes, I know you haven't been paid, but half the front bedroom's west wall is high gloss and the rest is flat, they sprayed over the windows in the living room, and also the kitchen cabinets have overspray. You fix the problems without causing new ones and then I'll sign."

They will send guys in suits and ties with clipboards to try to get you to sign. Have your own clipboard and keep smiling and saying "these are the problems that are preventing me from signing a certificate of completion ... the job is not complete until they are fixed without introducing new ones. If the guy who fixes the paint messes up the carpet, that's your problem, not mine."
34 Likes    Bookmark   Thanked by Emily Hurley    April 26, 2014 at 11:25AM
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We bought a foreclosure for our 2nd house. It was a little cape nestled into a wooded area. We did get an inspector to thoroughly check the house but it was fine. Just an FYI: you will pay for your own inspections. We ended up finishing the basement and built a very small bump out to expand the kitchen. That house was a tiny gem. It was well built which the inspector said and we were never sorry for buying it. You must do your research. Get two inspectors if you are worried or are not sure.
If you buy a foreclosure, you will be doing the people who owned it, the bank(s) and yourselves a favor.
If you need contractors to fix up the place, by all means do yourselves a HUGE favor and be sure to get a solid contract in place. Ask a realtor or your banker for recommendations for a contractor. Then, pay in thirds, one third up front, one third in the middle of the construction and the final third AFTER construction is complete. Banks will make you do that anyway. Let the bank do the final inspection for you. You will have two contracts, actually. One will be with the contractor and one with the bank. Most banks require payment in that manner and if you don't, you will break your contract with the bank which they will explain.
I say that if you love the place, get your inspections done, get a good price and go for it!
9 Likes    Bookmark   Thanked by Emily Hurley    April 26, 2014 at 7:40PM
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Divorced after 35 years I needed a place to live. I bought a short sale (close to foreclosure) Took 5 months to close due to the previous owner having two mortgages on the property.The banks had to agree within a certain time period the loss that each would take on the loans, that ran over the initial time period and the banks had to renegoiate under the new time period. Patience. I had two inspections. It's my 10 year project but well worth it. The location is 6 miles straight line from where I work, the other homes in the neighborhood are many times more expensive than mine and the house sits on ~3 acres. The bones of the house were good, 4 sided brick. Because I work in a city building department I know the 'good' subcontractors - real advantage. I've had to have the septic clean and fixed, the basement recording studio demo, wiring and HVAC redone and brought up to code. I still have lots to do like new kitchen cabinets and master bathroom vanity but many things I can fix myself with a lot of elbow grease - painting, taking off popcorn ceiling, replacing light fixtures, building steps in the yard, cleaning out years of neglect, etc. Yep, it's my 10 year project with limited funds. Would I do it again - yes, it's a lot of work but it's very occupying and rewarding. Because I bought at the low point during the house bust, my location, property and value of my home now might be considerably more than what I paid - I haven't checked.
9 Likes    Bookmark   Thanked by Emily Hurley    April 27, 2014 at 6:07AM
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Yes we have bought several foreclosure homes. Some we rehabbed and sold, some we used as rentals and some we lived in ourselves. We did most of the fix up work and hired people as needed. It was fun and a lot of work. We are living in one right now that we bought a year ago and are making improvements. We figured it would take us 2 years to get it to where we feel done. Would I do it again, yes in a heart beat. We have a real passion for fixing up houses and see people live in a nice home.
7 Likes    Bookmark   Thanked by Emily Hurley    April 27, 2014 at 7:00AM
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We are in a home that was foreclosed and bank owned. The bank sent in a clean up crew that did no prep work before they painted the whole interior. They also put in cheap rugs with several rooms that the nap was not matched. Doesn't look very good but with a couple of older dogs we are going to run it out before replacing. It is at least neutral. They replaced the trash compactor but the oven didn't work. The clean up crew tossed a huge amount of animal waste in a hidden spot in the yard that was pretty awful to deal with. In our last neighborhood they were doing cash for keys that seemed to be of some help and we saw a lot less abuse and outright vandalism by the foreclosed owners. Realtor had some horror stories though.
1 Like    Bookmark   Thanked by Emily Hurley    April 27, 2014 at 8:12AM
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Just bought a foreclosed house 1 year ago. Built in 2000 and is 1600sq ft. The only problem was the bank, it keep dragging there feet. It took 6 weeks to close and we had been pre approved with that bank. The paper work was imposable it drove me nuts. But it all went well finally. The house has increased in value by 30K Its was a good move.
2 Likes    Bookmark   Thanked by Emily Hurley    April 27, 2014 at 10:14AM
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4 foreclosures. It takes a lot longer than you think to fix one up. The best ones are ones that the owner did nothing, no paint or wallpaper, no add a patio cover, no nothing...because they usually destroy value rather than add.
8 Likes    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 10:32AM
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We purchased a foreclosure in 2011 in a beautiful neighborhood and felt very fortunate. We made an offer, the bank came back with their full asking price. We upped our offer and thru our realtor's shear determination they accepted! It went very quickly and in less than a month we had the keys to our house. We too purchased a Home Owner's Warranty (and have renewed it twice) and it covered the water softener, refrigerator and various plumbing repairs that were necessary. We had a home inspection and the little problems that were found were corrected and fixed immediately. The house had been a rental for around 6 years and the original owners selected no builder's upgrades at all so we were free to put our stamp on it with all new flooring (carpet, yes carpet, wood laminate and tile), granite countertops with beautiful stone backsplash, every room repainted and in beautiful colors, retiled the fireplace surround, all new light fixtures, recessed lighting in the long entryway, a beautiful fan w/lights for the 11' ceilinged living room. We found a great landscaper who cleaned everything up (and oh what joy when the 5 rose bushes started putting forth gorgeous roses!) All that hard work on the part of my husband and our contractor took approximately 4 weeks. It was like moving into a brand new home! (Only wish we had thousands more to do over the master bathroom!) The value of our home has increased steadily ever since and we would do it again in a heartbeat!
    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 10:51AM
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JAC Frances
I've never bought one, was tempted during the Recession. Glad I went with my inner prompting to not do it and wait. Too many people jumped on the "opportunity" to snap one up only to find it was a money pit. I was patient and wound up buying a well-maintained home for very little money at the end of the Recession. Saved me money and many headaches.
3 Likes    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 11:53AM
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I bought a foreclosure last July & I'm still fixing it up - most of the repairs and upgrades cost double what I anticipated! It will be worth it when I move in next month as it is on a beautiful little lake surrounded by more expensive homes - looking forward to enjoying the lake life!
1 Like    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 12:12PM
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Anne Pratt
Bought a foreclosure years ago, but I was married to a contractor. Lots of work; later I put in a new kitchen and mudroom, half bath, and a few other improvements. Bought at $105,000, put in something more than $50,000, sold for $230,000. Of course, sold it at the height of the real estate bubble! Zillow values it at $225,000 today.
    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 12:23PM
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Yes. More than once. Usually we sell or rent them but our last we moved into. We still have a few things to finish up but here are a few Before and after photos:
7 Likes    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 12:54PM
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Chris Pelvin
one word, headache, I bought my house a little under a year ago and it had been project after project since then. I have dobe everything from update the electrical to fixing plumbing. If I were to be asked to do it over again, I would say yes, as I have almost 50k equity in the house already and the market here continues to climb.
2 Likes    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 12:55PM
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We bought a very nice ski condominium at a major resort out of foreclosure 2 years ago. The bank was a bit odd to deal with--no humans, only "online" (but I think the Wizard of Oz was really behind the curtain), and they reopened the bidding after our offer had supposedly been accepted, but in the end we got a well-located 3BR place that had originally cost $800K, had been offered for $650K, and eventually sold to us for $310K. It was in good shape but we put about $50K into it to update it and make it more luxurious and now we have something worth around $450-500K in today's market. Our family will enjoy it for many years and as an investment I feel we did very well. A few "surprises" (like a $2K/year roof replacement assessment for 5 years), but nothing terrible.
    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 2:22PM
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Bought a Fannie Mae foreclosure last July for my brother to live in. The bad roof scared everyone else off, but there was very little actual water damage. Bought a 3/2 with a large lot for $38k, added a new metal roof for $12k, scored a used stove, washer and dryer with warranties all for under $1k. I was able to match the flooring in the main living area to do the the two bedrooms and huge master closet. I am now replacing the water softener, and adding gutters that were damaged and removed. My brother and his girlfriend are very happy, and have made it into a nice home.

Overall, a good experience. I went with my gut, and it paid off --this time. I had to keep on the realtor and the closing agents, because I was paying cash, and they were used to a slow deal and financing. I got it done in less than a month, which is unheard of in a foreclosure...

Bottom line: We have no relatives living with us, and that alone was worth the time and money!
4 Likes    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 5:51PM
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I bought a foreclosure in 2000. I made the mistake of hiring a friend from college to serve as my real estate agent AND my contractor. I purchased the home for $67,000, and got a 403k rehab loan for around $35,000. The contractor promised way more than he could deliver for the budget, and honestly, I expected too much. The house was a mess when I bought it. As with most foreclosures that I looked at, the previous owner damaged the house and left it in complete disrepair. Construction ended up being a very stressful process, with me ulitimately ending up acting as the GC and hiring out the remaining parts of the job. Buying the house was a solid financial decision, though. It was a single-family home with a garage in DC--very small, but all the space a single (at the time) woman could need. I was paying less for my mortgage than most of my friends paid for rent. I lived in the house for about 5 years, constantly updating as much as I could. After I got married in 2005, I sold the house for $350,000. Renting the house would've been mnore trouble than it was worth. the people who bought the property from me bought it as an investment property to rent out, and ended up losing the house in a few years. I have fond memories of the house, and some sad ones too. But I don't regret buying it at all.
2 Likes    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 6:08AM
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I bought a foreclosure as a second home. It is a 2 bed/2 bath cabin in great condition. I wasn't specifically looking for a foreclosure; it was just a good deal. It was way below market at the time (at ~150k) and is currently valued at over 500k. I'm not looking to sell though - we love our cabin. I rent it out on AirBnB when we aren't using it, which helps to cover the expenses.
    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 10:58AM
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Eve Smith
We bought a foreclosure our first/current house in 2008 when the market was still on the way down. It was still relatively new at the time, about 3 years old. We had a fabulous realtor who put us in touch with a reputable inspector. She also paid for a home warranty for us for the first year and it paid for itself within the first 3-4 months when we had to have the water heater replaced (didn't know exactly how nasty the water in Las Vegas was until we saw it completely rusted out the bottom of a water heater in 3 years). Only other issues we've had were minor (air conditioner tune up, more related to living in the desert than being a foreclosure). Would we do it again? Definitely! Thinking about getting an investment property and foreclosures are always some of the first properties we ask to see.
    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 10:09PM
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yes. I would do it again a million times over. my house is newer 2007 (bought in 2010) but as a foreclosed home it was stripped of everything with the exception of the walls, flooring and cabinets. - literally I didn't have a kitchen sink or cabinet pulls, all throughout the house where the light fixtures were supposed to be only wires hung down, no doors anywhere, no mirrors in the bathroom and even the closets did not have the shelves - none of them not even the tiny upstairs linen closet HAHAHA yeah....so lets say I had a blank canvas. Luckily the kitchen cabinets and counter top when intact and looking brand new. Which was awesome because I was able to make it my own little by little. First thing I did was a custom paint job, patch a few drywall holes, next closet shelves and all doors, carpet cleaning, next appliances, next light fixtures and new brushed nickel hardware everywhere bathrooms kitchen, doors, switchplates etc.

Would I do it again - 100x over, but, only on a newer house (cosmetic changes). Lets just say I love my house seems custom and the finishes are of a much higher end than what would have been here. Everyone that walks in is like wow!! you got a great buy this house looks brand new everything sparkles and Im like ohh no it didn't look like this when I bought it Lol everyone is shocked when I tell them. I bought my townhouse for $110k, 3 years later it was appraised at 150k not bad .
2 Likes    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 11:08PM
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We bought a foreclosure and it was quite a bit more work than we initially thought but so worth it! We bought our house for $150k and we have an additional $20k in it and we just refinanced it and the bank appraisal came out to $280k!! We were thrilled. We have recently started working on the outside of the house. Here is our before and in progress photos of the front of the house! I can't wait for spring to finally get here so we can finish the outside!
4 Likes    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 8:18AM
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I would absolutely recommend it BUT not if you are clueless about construction. Don't rely on an inspector to find all the problems because they won't. Either you know what you are getting yourself into and have the knowledge and budget to get the issues sorted or find one with less issues that you feel you can manage, Some properties are trashed and others are just empty but neglected. Focus on the big ticket items like systems (HVAC, plumbing, electrical, roof, windows, framing and foundations, etc.) ignore the cosmetics.
Do your homework and know what thing REALLY cost. Know what you have to be able to buy the house for so you still have equity it he property when you are done with the remodel. Buy with your head, not your heart, I don't think the housing market will every get lower than it is right now and the train is already pulling out the station. The real low point was 2011. I am on my second foreclosure and I had $200k in instant equity on that one the day I walked in the door before I'd even touched a thing! Here are some before and afters of my first one.
6 Likes    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 2:09AM
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Oh, I have to get back to the States, where the construction industry as a whole is professional and does legal, professional and efficient work. This industry in Italy is (for the most part) not reliable, not efficient, extremely slow, and would fall apart were it not for a majority of the work being paid for under the table, and permits etc managed by city hall's mafia-style techniques of favors and bribes. There are endless opportunities of rustic farmhouses, etc, to buy cheaply and do an overhaul rennovation, but unless you do it 100% yourself, you are looking at a project that will last years and years (and years) if a 'contractor' is involved. I have heard horror stories from those who have bought a farmhouse to re-do and open as a bed & breakfast (and have done successfully), but had to withstand incredibly slow progress, absolutely no reliability from the workers, dishonesty from the 'contractor', and a general atmosphere of getting taken for a ride. foreclosures barely exist in this country, but the degree of professional help being available as described in many of the comments above gets me to wistful thinking....there are problems everywhere.................but the ones in Italy are so deep-seeded and expected................."the more things change, the more they remain the same" - Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
1 Like    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 2:53AM
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My husband and I never thought we would ever move but two and a half years ago we bought a foreclosure from the sheriff directly across from the home we have lived in for 30 years on 10 acres. The foreclosure was completely gutted including no subfloor, electric, or plumbing. In fact, the only thing remaining was the brick and great windows. After taking our time, paying as we went, savvy shopping, long hours and lots and lots of work we are finally moved in and loving it. I got my marble island top, country sink and hardwood floors. We are preparing to build an additional garage for his workshop. We have the home of our dreams and now my husband is preparing to retire.
5 Likes    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 4:49AM
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i just love this story................................good for you guys. i like your attitude.
    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 4:53AM
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Cynthia Celenza
I bought the "Beetlejuice" house. Everything is backwards, upside down and/or falling off. It's been a challenge for everyone who has worked on it. The previous home owner neglected many issues and what was addressed was done badly. If a homeowner defaults on their mortgage it stands to reason that they are stressed and will try to repair things themselves which may not work out so well. The house was 100K on the water. I love the location and the house has good bones. It has been 6 months of unhappy complications but I can see an end in sight. The exterior will have to wait. Complications equal spending money. Plan for spending more than you thought, making compromises, quick changes and smart shopping...and some crying.
3 Likes    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 4:56AM
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Crystal Swanson
Our foreclosure story is quite incredible. First, we had a garage sale at our existing house of 17 years and a physician came to a garage sale we had (and that house wasn't for sale) and fell in love with the property-and bought it. During the height of the housing crisis. Then we moved into a temporary rental with the idea of building a new, smaller retirement home on some property we had owned. We had the plans and the stakes in the ground, with the bulldozer ready to dig the hole, when we found out about a foreclosure that was coming up for sale.-but not just any. My husband is a builder and he had built this house 9 years back and unfortunately it had been foreclosed upon when times got tough. We called off the bulldozer and bought the house. It needed a lot of work =several items were missing like the a/c, light fixtures, vanity, and such plus lots of cosmetic and decorating work, amongst other updates and improvements inside and out we wanted to accomplish. We put everything back together and now we both agree this turned out to be the perfect house for us as we are now empty nesters. We even had a wedding here last summer
14 Likes    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 4:56AM
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Here's a picture of the same area finished.
8 Likes    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 4:57AM
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Susan Bishop
I bought a 1908 Craftsman house in rural Tennessee. As others have reported, the escrow process was long and nit picking. Besides the bank, there were 3 government agencies with fingers in the pie. The inspection revealed several items that needed fixing before the agencies would sign off and they only gave us 14 days to complete them all. Fortunately, we were able to live in the house while doing the work. I went from a 600 sq. ft. mobile home to a 3000 sq. ft. two story house, a real eye opener when I saw how much space I'll need to fill. I bought more house than I need, but the price and area were so perfect that I couldn't turn it down. $65000 bought a 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath house on 1/3 acre. Sure, I'll be scraping and painting woodwork for a long, long time, but I now have two rooms for my design studio and sewing room, something I never had before. In the mobile home, I had a thrift store TV armoire and an outside shed. As I sit here with my dog on my lap and watch the sunrise over the Cumberlands, I am glad I took the plunge.
4 Likes    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 5:39AM
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As a realtor, I've been in a minimum of 500, and involved in the purchase of 20+ short sales and foreclosures. All that have been purchased have gone up in value, some by quite a bit, and the ones rehabbed and sold were all successful investments. And we have never spent less than 3 months or less than 30k on fix up. (midwest, not California!)

I like that my buyers add value to a neighborhood, save a home (which is WAY more green than to build new) and provide jobs to a lot of independent business owners - contractors.

At the same time, I lost my home to foreclosure. Long story, but 475k value in '07, city bought and tore down. It was hard to go through, but gives me a measure of compassion towards people in a short sale situation. And though I love looking at all the ideas on Houzz, I would caution others on borrowing carefully for home remodeling. AND I've seen some very poor diy projects that really tanked the value, so I really try to keep 1st time buyers in check about what they can afford and what they are capable of.

Foreclosures are often listed incorrectly or with few details, so good to get out there with an agent and take a look if you have the time and money (cash is king - always). Now deals are harder to find though I still find more than investors have time to do.
PS - Great story Crystal Swanson!
1 Like    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 6:34AM
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We bought a house here in a 55+ community that was foreclosed. The bank went through and painted the inside builder beige. But the refrigerator was missing and they took the RO system. The worst thing they did was take the front security door. So I guess we are lucky compared to some.
    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 6:43AM
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Anne Skewes
We've experienced many of the above comments with our foreclosure. And unfortunately, the former owner removed anything he could take, so we had to replace a few (luckily) small things like the wine fridge.
Here's one thing I'd like to warn about: the house had been sitting for about two years, so there were lots of small things that had stopped working. Mostly the electrical with the pool. It has taken repeat visits from an electrician to get it all up and running. And the house, because it stays closed up a lot, has a smell that we can't get rid of. We've put in deodorizers everywhere, but that stale smell persists. Any suggestions?
    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 7:00AM
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We bought a foreclosure 3 years ago and it has been a slow process fixing it up. But we are enjoying it. The experience with the bank was so-so. They were actually quite quick in responses, but they tried to squeeze us for more money. But in the end we bought a 1059 sq. ft. split-level for 99,000, with the bank throwing in 1,500 for the frozen plumbing.
We couldn't have afforded a home in this nice of an area without buying a foreclosure, so we are very happy with it.
1 Like    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 7:11AM
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Absolutely!!! I bought my 1972 Bungalow home January of 2013 for 110K. The home was a Fannie Mae purchase. I was a little fearful at first because I was unfamiliar with this sort of home purchase; however, with the support of my excellent realtor Erika Chase at Beiler-Campbell Realtors, friends at Cedar Knoll Builders and C.R. Construction the process was not only a smooth process but an easy learning experience I was also able to enjoy. Erika helped me mortgage a construction loan and after 60 days C.R. Construction wonderfully secured my home for me to move in. Working with a small budget and one step at a time, I was able to add character to this charming little home. An artist and a gardener I started with what I knew best. I repainted the walls and little by little dug out flowerbeds and filled them with all my favorite perennials. I still have a ways to go but if a single woman in her twenties can tackle a foreclosure I'm confident many others can too!
7 Likes    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 7:15AM
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Since I have avoided foreclosure a few times over the past couple of years by the skin of my teeth, I could not buy a foreclosure. I know how awful and scared I felt, after paying my mortgage for over 20 years and the bank refusing to work with me. A good friend saved me by catching me up the 3 payments I was behind. I feel so badly for all those people who have lost their homes. I know what they felt since I was so close. I would feel guilty profiting from someone else's loss. I would worry about bad karma.

I know, since it already happened, and someone is going to buy it....

Just my feelings. Not judging anyone who buys one.
4 Likes    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 8:12AM
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Try Estate Sales. A much better bargin for the money!
2 Likes    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 8:13AM
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Anne, Amazon sells something called the Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag. We had a strong smell in our new house from the finish on the custom cabinets. I bought three of these and the smells went away within a week or two. You can refresh them by putting them out in the sun for a couple of days. They are very unobtrusive so I kept them out even after the first smell was vanquished, just in case another smell creeps in.
1 Like    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 8:26AM
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Leslie Loges
The 20-year-old condo we live in is in a high-end neighborhood and we purchased it as a foreclosure. Being first-time homebuyers, we were specifically looking for foreclosures and short-sales in hopes of getting something great.

We focused on one neighborhood and ended up getting a 925-square-foot condo for about $235K (we're 15 miles outside Washington DC). It had been used as a rental unit for some time and sat vacant for months because people thought the last resident was a smoker (she wasn't -- the smoke smell was coming from the downstairs neighbors).

We made sure to have a thorough home inspection, we were prepared to take it as is if needed and knew we'd need to do a little work going in. We also were gifted a home warranty by our realtor (a total gem who we love) that was immensely helpful. We ended up scraping the popcorn ceilings, having all the duct work and vents cleaned out, carpet shampooed, HVAC system serviced, water-heater replaced, walls washed, primed and painted. Eventually we replaced the carpet with a high-end laminate (we have a dog who runs like a frightened Scooby Doo).

It was actually a pretty great experience overall, and I would absolutely do it again. In the four years we've been in our condo, our home's value has increased by about $100K (thanks to a new Metro line opening in a few months, as well as improvements in the real estate market). I think you really just have to know what you're getting yourself into. Be prepared to put work in, be prepared for things to fail, and be prepared to get your heart a bit broken if it's not the right decision or fit.

First photo is before we owned it. Then some photos during/after new flooring. (Side note: the 30-year-old red-orange LaZBoy is no more and has been replaced with a gray-brown brand new LaZBoy. Eh. Ya pick yer battles.) Last photo is our most recent fixation. Making our (huge) balcony into an amazing, cozy outdoor living space.
2 Likes    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 9:41AM
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Katherine Vinson
We bought a HUD foreclosure 4 months ago. Instant equity as we got such a good price on it. It was built in 2006 and didn't seem to have any problems and nothing was missing other than the appliances. The inspection turned up some minor stuff but nothing major. But a week after we moved in we discovered the sewer line had disconnected from the house while it was sitting empty for the past 2 years. A contractor had to come out (twice!) to dig up our yard and repair the line. And while he was there he commented that our foundation looked odd and he'd recommend getting it repaired. So we had a basement/foundation specialist out just this morning. Actually stumped the man! Turns out that somehow the foundation was laid too wide and the entire back of the house is resting about 16" in, on the slab. He's never seen anything like and and is going to have to check with his engineers as none of their recommended solutions quite apply. He's thinking they'll probably end up recommending polyurethane concrete raising but he's concerned it'd be a band-aid rather than a permanent fix. Can't really blame the sewer line on the inspector. But can't believe he didn't think the foundation was a concern!! This is supposed to be our forever home and we're not all that happy. Not sure if I would do this again or not...
1 Like    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 11:20AM
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We bought a "Distress Sale" --sliding into foreclosure---for our first house---paid $35k in 1982. Spent 10 years re-doing things like lifting up part of the sill with a car jack and replacing the sill; ditto to doing the same with the barn out back; learned how to work with slate roofing---and how to deal with being ON the slate roof in a strong earthquake!-crazy 1950's lino floor tiles that lifted off the hardwood flooring in the kitchen every time I tried to wash the floor but refused to COME UP when I wanted to re-do the floor! Stripped off the worlds oldest and ugliest lino laid on wide board pumpkin pine floors. Had the bathroom ceiling collapse on me cutting me off from my panic stricken kids.

Oh and the renters in the place pulled the plug on the huge chest freezer--that was---um---fun!--and left wash in the machine-ugh! Turned out they had been running a BROTHEL out of the house--and they were taking PICTURES which they ALSO left!!!! Imagine meeting your new neighbors who look strangely---familiar!

Probably a million other things we did I can't even begin to think of. And sold it as we were putting the FOR SALE sign in the yard---sight unseen---for triple what we paid for it--in a VERY bad market.

Then---OMG where are we going to LIVE????

There WAS the gorgeous 1800 house---that collapsed into the cellerhole before we could put an offer on it. Phew! The 1800's---sensing a trend here?--house with a giant SAFE built in under the stairs--but the entire BACK (large) addition was literally seperated form the main house. I said--pull THAT part off and just fix the rest--which was in decent shape. Hubs didn't like that idea--later met the man who DID buy it and his WIFE made him FIX that back end (It has since been torn off by new more practicle owners!) There was the $10k Canal House---that had NEVER had plumbing or electric and had trees growing out of the roof---well someone actually DID fix that one up!

In the end we bought a foreclosed house that the owner had been in the process of being foreclosed when she died. So the house SAT for months. Most of the stuff left in the house was utter trash---we took 20 or so full-to-overflowing pickup truck loads to the dump---couldn't afford to DO this now with disposal fees what they are! The bank was great--it was a very local bank--and we did ALL the legwork ourselves and negotiated with the appointed lawyer etc. We were able to get the bank to have the power turned on and we cleaned--endlessly--with the proviso that we would be PAID for this IF the deal fell thru. The people buying our old house delayed but eventually we DID close. Took 5 months mostly delayed by the purchasers.

We have redone things and much more still remains to be done. We are lucky that this area of the country did not lose as much value as other areas so we should again triple our buy price of $44k. And since we paid cash for the place---all ours!

Some advice--EVERYTHING will cost you TWICE as much to fix as you think and take TWICE as long. Whoever owned/built/repaired it did NOT do it right. Ever! We had reversed plumbing; no shut offs on ANY plumbing; rotted rear sill from badly installed deck (see above--we knew HOW to fix this but others were scared off by it) No front access at ALL--the place had NEVER had even basic steps; the kiddos had a full sized POOL in the finished basement meaning we then had to rip out the entire basements worth of water soaked lino; discovered that our kids were allergic to wasps in JANUARY when we moved in and heated the place and they came out of the walls where the windows had been left OPEN since the previous May.

The banks WILL work with you IF you can show them that they will get VALUE from this. And there might be a court appointed lawyer for the property who CAN be a HUGE help---they do this pro-bono and they HATE it so if you can make it easy for THEM--they will help YOU.

The prior owners debts are NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. Only the debt they owe to the bank. We discovered that the prior owner had MORE than the mortgage in bad debt. One of the owners was still alive and we directed everyone to him. This is a matter of PUBLIC RECORD and your County or lawyer can get this info and you can offer MUCH less ---we were given a figure of $80k but the bank was only owed $40+---we offered $30 they said no we offered $44 and SOLD. They still lost a few thou but they cleared their books. You can ALWAYS go up in your offers---highly UNlikely that the bank will voluntarily go DOWN. Never hurts to offer a low ball number.

My son and his wife at age 25 bought THEIR first house as a "Short" sale--and got a great deal! Now we are looking for investment property. Stay tuned--HOUZZE readers should crowd fund these things--we have such knowledge and experience!!!!
2 Likes    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 10:09PM
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Mary Elizabeth
We have - twice! First one in 1980 - 100+ year old with tons of character - unfortunately, also tons of drafty windows! A great learning experience of DIY projects, but we were more than happy to sell at a profit and move on!
One other house between then & our current (and FOREVER) home. Not sure yet if we are on the 5 year or the 10 year remodeling plan, but time will tell.
The house was listed for sale in 2008 for 725K - we got it for less than half in the summer of 2011 (with Divine intervention & a great realtor!)
No real damage to the property other than neglect and some poor workmanship from previous contractors, however most of that we are re-doing anyway. The previous owners spent thousands for all new windows, a 50 x 70 stamped concrete patio, and a complete new kitchen, that we will leave as is, except for painting the cabinets.
So far, we have put on a new shingles (great contractor!), gutted and replaced all the plumbing for 5 bathrooms (just finished the 4th one - only 1 to go!) (Also had GREAT plumbers!) Removed & refinished all the trim work in 5 bedrooms, re-stored all the closet built-ins (originally built in 1965), and are currently working on the library - a 14 x 25 room with a vaulted ceiling. There are floor to ceiling cabinets & bookshelves on one long wall, with an antique oak library ladder (found on Craigslist). The room is divided from the rest of the house with 8' foot high antique french doors that we salvaged from a historic home in the city.
Lots of projects still to go, but with God's blessing, also lots of years & memories for the kids & grandchildren (6 so far)!
And the view is priceless!
1 Like    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 6:01AM
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I bought a 1BR condo on Auction.com a couple years ago. It was being sold by Fannie Mae post-foreclosure. Never went inside, but there were photos that looked nice, showing the condo had been remodeled. I emailed the agent and she told me those were the photos from that unit and they had just been taken. So it was a risk, but I lucked out. (I really never thought I'd win the auction... I never hit the reserve... but they offered it to me anyway.) Fortunately once I got it I found it was in perfect shape, didn't even need cleaning. The condo is in a resort area so I furnished it really nicely and I vacation rent it. It was more than covered its expenses along the way, and I've doubled my money in 2 years.
3 Likes    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 11:22AM
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Photos of above condo
    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 11:25AM
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We didn't buy a foreclosure, but got a reverse mortgage house in bad shape and fixed it up. We had an excellent realtor who specializes in short sales and foreclosures. We are extremely happy - we are in a neighborhood we never could have afforded, and our house has tremendously increased in value.

Thank everyone for the very educational comments. We plan to buy small distressed properties and fix them up with a contractor friend some day.
    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 11:35AM
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Anne Skewes, I usually wash the walls down with apple cider vinegar and water for strong smells. It even takes smoke smells out of the walls. I also have a Wagner steamer that I use to clean windows and walls, and just used that in my mom's house to clean the walls and ceilings, and it works really well - so much easier and nicer than cleaning with a sponge and arms worn out from scrubbing overhead all day.
1 Like    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 12:09PM
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After reading most of the comments here, I have no desire to purchase a repo. The banks sound impossible and previous owners wrecking the place is scary. What are the rules for banks of they are selling a house at auction? Are they required to have all the paperwork in place and signed as any other vendor would? Do they only hold repo auctions with houses that haven't been wrecked? Sounds daunting.
    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 9:46PM
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Curt D'Onofrio
We never brought a foreclosure, but i'm thinking about it for investment purposes. My thinking, buy low, fix it up, then re-sell to make profit. I know it's a gamble, but for the most part is this recommended ?
    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 10:17PM
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I would go to BiggerPockets.com and spend a lot of time reading and learning. You can make money or lose money. A lot.
2 Likes    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 12:18AM
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Curt D'Onofrio, my friends who flip houses say that it is all about budget. You have to really know what you are doing as far as investing in materials and what to fix up to what degree, and time is of the essence - you want a big enough crew to get the house on the market quickly, or all your money goes to paying off the mortgage.
2 Likes    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 11:49AM
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We have not but had friends that bought a nice ranch in a good subdivision shortly after the bubble burst. They had the best experience I have heard of. The house was probably less then 10 years old with all the bells and whistles. Every light switch and knob was labelled as to what it worked. There was surround sound and fancy remotes for most everything. All they had to do was move in and it was perfect. Even the paint was pristine.
Not the normal story you hear.
    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 1:15PM
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