RealtyTrac is not a "distressed property MLS", they simply take public record notices and syndicate the information to the web. To the uninformed this looks like home are being sold for cheap; however, the truth is that most of the time the home is not even listed for sale.
Distressed property is almost always sold via Realtor MLS systems to provide the widest exposure as possible. The remainder is sold directly to investors via "portfolio purchases" where multiple homes are sold at once, public auction on the County courthouse steps via a Trustee Sale, or via private auction companies.
I have friends that used RealtyTrac years ago so they may have improved, but they ALL were truly disappointed with their services. Big promises, "easy", etc turned out to be more marketing less action.
Also, if you are looking at buying a foreclosure, look into financing first! If buying via court steps (where they are typically sold) many Counties require cash only. Also, know you are going up against people that do this as their full time job, work for corporations etc. It sounds great - but go to a few and see what it is like first.
Hope this helps!
Good information here about Realty Trac. Zillow is just as bad or worse.
If you are looking for property on your own or trying to get a feel for prices, any good real estate agent will have some kind of IDX search solution (internet data exchange, where participating brokers in a local association offer their listings to be posted on competitor's websites) on their website.
If your a investor that wants to be active in finding properties, it may have some benifits. However, if you are a first time buyer, it is better to find a good buyers agent to assit you with the process. It is like any other thing, one tool does not make you an expert and it takes time to master the tool.
You have to understand all properties on realty trac are not for sale. Some of the people may deliquent and not going to try to sell (just let the property go to foreclosure). Others may be second mortgages and will not help you because the property still has a first lien on the property. Still others property owners may file bankruptcy and delay the sale process. The REO section is good because those properties are going to be sold or have already been sold. The timing of reo's depends on timing of notice. I have seen where they are not available yet and where they sold months before listed.
First Weber Group
Certified Distressed Property Expert
Corona Short Sale Agent
Alaska Dream Makers
Chad Basinger, REALTORÂ®, CPA, CFPÂ®