You definitely need to review the title!! If you are working with an agent, your agent can get a property profile from a title company which should include copies of the trust deeds on the property as well as any back property taxes that might be due. You can also go to the Marin County website and run the name of the owner to see if any additional liens have been filed that might be recorded on the property. You also should have a good idea of the current market value of the property before even thinking about bidding on a property.
Are you aware of the fact that you need to have a cashier's check for the amount that you are planning to bid???
There are people in the county that are experienced buyers at trustee sales who do all of their homework and show up at the sales of properties that they think are worthwhile. They have money readily available to buy properties and are prepared to outbid other bidders if they feel that the property is a good buy.
Unless you absolutely know what you're doing, I would recommend looking at REO properties, which are usually priced competitively. Short sales can be good buys too, but they take a lot more patience. They are sometimes risky because some listing agents aren't experienced at dealing with short sales, which can turn the transactions into a disaster.
Great answers below, purchasing without knowing title issues can be more spooky than Halloween! There are plenty of Bank Owned, Short Sales, and motivated sellers. As a buyer, you are in the driver seat. If you are completely in love with this property, it may not sell at the Auction, and you can pick it up when it goes bank owned(i.e. if there is a loan on it). Good luck. -Greg
Not only may you have title issues, but you will also most likely not have had the opportunity to thoroughly inspect the property prior to making your bid at the trustee sale. The sales at the trustee sale are final, no inspection contingencies and you'll have to pay the full amount on the day of the auction.
Furthermore, most properties that you can buy at the trustee sale are not worth the money they are asking for as the minimum bid which is usually the outstanding loan amount.
Sorry to paint such a dark picture of purchasing at the trustee sale, but based on what I know, it's not a good idea these days and since you can't get any real deals that way anyway (for the most part), I don't see any reason why anybody would want to go that route. There are so many properties that are already bank owned and when you buy one of those that are listed through the MLS, you'll get a title insurance policy, clear title, non-recurring closing costs paid and an inspection period. Why bother with the trustee sale? Just my opinion.