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Top 6 Mistakes When Buying Foreclosures

by Mark Brace

Top 6 Mistakes in Order:

1.       Flying Solo - Not working with a Realtor

2.       Being unfamiliar with the law or process

3.       Thinking Short Term – “I can Flip it!”

4.       Seeing only the sticker – Not looking at the amount of repairs

5.       Searching too broadly – Target an area and get Grand Rapids Foreclosures listings ASAP.

6.       Taking no prisoners – Offering too low on already reduced prices

Nothing illustrates the devastation of America's housing bust more vividly than the abandoned properties now blighting the nation's communities. In the third quarter alone, foreclosure filings were reported on more than 750,000 properties in the United States, a 71 percent increase from the same period last year, according to RealtyTrac. But for real estate investors, one person's tragedy can be another's good fortune. With so many foreclosures on the market, "this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for many people," says Steve Dexter, a foreclosure expert and author of the forthcoming book Buy and Hold Forever-Building Real Estate Wealth Far Into the 21st Century.

Still, the purchase of foreclosed property—an often complex and involved process—presents would-be buyers with plenty of opportunities to make costly mistakes. In an effort to help consumers avoid such pitfalls, U.S. News spoke with a handful of experts to create a list of six common blunders that individuals make when attempting to buy foreclosed properties.

1. Flying solo. While enterprising do-it-yourselfers can certainly get away with going through the traditional home buying process without an agent, foreclosed real estate is another matter. Such complex transactions require the expertise of not just any real estate agent but one with a background in buying and selling foreclosed homes. "In today's uncertain times it's important to be working with someone who has been through market cycles before," says Patrick McGilvray, president of TheHomeBuyingCenter.com, which links homeowners and owners of foreclosure real estate with potential house buyers. So unless you are truly a real estate expert, do some research and find an agent with foreclosure experience in your market.

2. Being unfamiliar with the law. It's important to remember that real estate agents aren't lawyers, and foreclosure laws can change significantly from state to state. "A lot of people don't realize [that] foreclosures are heavily regulated and every state has its own set of laws," says Alexis McGee, the president of Foreclosures.com. "If you don't have the language proper in your contract, or if you have even the font size wrong, it's criminal and civil damages-don't count on every Realtor knowing this." As such, McGee advises against relying on a real estate agent for legal advice. Instead, consumers should review the foreclosure laws in their state and then get qualified legal advice from a local real estate attorney.

3. Thinking short term. Since many foreclosed homes may decline further in value in the coming months, it's important that buyers approach the transaction from a long-term perspective." If you are not looking at a piece of foreclosed property from a 10-year time horizon-as an investor or as an owner occupant-then you will likely suffer," McGilvray says. So if you are just trying to cash in on a quick flip, don't buy a foreclosure. Only investors with the resources and patience for a long-term real estate investment and homeowners who can afford a fully amortized fixed-rate mortgage should consider buying foreclosed property, McGilvray says.

4. Seeing only the sticker. While the price you negotiate for a foreclosed home may be significantly less than its value just a few years back, many such homes may require substantial repairs. McGilvray says that anyone buying a foreclosed property should make sure to set aside an additional 10 percent of its price tag for repairs. "Make sure you have 10 percent, especially if the home is a few years old," he says. "It is amazing how quickly houses can deteriorate." Prospective buyers should keep these additional repair costs in mind when they are negotiating the home's price.

5. Searching too broadly. With so much inventory coming onto the market these days, it's easy for buyers to become overwhelmed. To that end, Dexter recommends that anyone in the market for a foreclosure target a specific neighborhood and contact an agent with experience there. Make sure to specify the type of property you are looking for in order to avoid being inundated with listings. Tell the agent, "I want all these kinds of houses in this neighborhood that are bank listings [and] I want to know about them all as they come on the market," Dexter says. The agent will then be able to shoot you all the listings that meet your requirements as they become available. "If [the buyer is] patient enough and they get plugged in to the flow of new bank listings coming in, they can pick up some awfully good deals."

6. Taking no prisoners. While buyers can certainly get good deals on foreclosed homes, it's a mistake to assume that banks will accept any and all offers. (Unless, of course, the listing specifically says so.) Banks aren't set up to sell houses, so they typically outsource their foreclosed properties to real estate agents, McGee says. In such cases, agents can receive listings in bulk, perhaps 50 at a time. While these agents want to get the properties sold off quickly, they also want to get a good price for the seller so that the bank will give them additional business in the future. "Saving face is important for them," McGee says. "A lot of people just assume that because this property is bank-owned they will just take half off. Well, that's just not true." As such, insultingly low offers have the potential to tank the negotiations over foreclosed homes, McGee says. So make sure you present your wholesale offer case well both in writing and verbally with the listing agent.

Information Taken From: "The Top 6 Mistakes of Foreclosed-Home Buying" By Luke Mullins, U.S. News Nov. 18th 2008

EXISTING HOME SALES REBOUND in Grand Rapids

by Mark Brace
The Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS reports that sales of existing homes, including single-family homes, vacation homes, and condominiums, rose to record levels in January of 2008. The Association reported 996 sales in January of 2008 - an 18.9 percent increase over the same period last year, and its strongest January sales report since 2002. This comes on the heels of the Association's report that sales of existing homes in each month of the fourth quarter of 2007 also rose to record levels when compared to 2006. Jim Fase, President of the Grand Rapids Association of REALTORS, said that this notable rise in home sales means we will likely see a faster and more meaningful recovery of the local housing industry, which will help to stimulate overall economic activity. "The average price of an existing single-family home in January was $129,500, a reduction that was anticipated in light of the increased number of sales of homes in January that were at or near foreclosure. Subprime loans and other risky mortgage products have virtually disappeared from the marketplace which means that current sales are more stable and will lead to higher home values later in the year," he said. The adjustment in the average price will also enable more first time homebuyers to purchase a home. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) reports that Grand Rapids ranks as the fifth most affordable major housing market in the U.S. This is based on a measurement of the percentage of homes sold in the Grand Rapids area that are affordable to families earning this area's median income. "The steady increase in the number of home sales in this area gives us confidence that we may have turned the corner," Fase concludes.

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Contact Information

Mark Brace, Realtor, ABR, GRI, CRS, SRES, e-PRO, A
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Michigan Real Estate
3000 East Beltline NE
Grand Rapids MI 49525
Direct: (616) 447-7025
Cell: (616) 540-7705
Fax: (616) 447-7025

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Michigan Real Estate is a full service, locally operated real estate brokerage company backed by the strength of a solid national and global brand. Our full service businesses include Residential, Commercial, Relocation, Mortgage, Insurance, Home Services and New Homes & Land. Our core values, service philosophy, cutting edge technology, and most importantly our people are what make us the leading real estate company in Michigan. We are committed to providing the highest quality real estate services possible and making each customer's experience one that surpasses their expectations.