"Is there a website that would explain how to go about bidding on a house being auctioned on the steps of the Fresno Courthouse? How it works?"
I have to agree wholeheartedly with Suzanne and Lance. Buying at Auction is a little bit like the analogy of where you like sausage up until how you see it's made!
Foreclosure Auction Guide
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CanJbhGdJM (has sound)
"Wells Fargo auctions off house they don't own"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yV6NeHoq1wA (has sound)
Still interested? OK....
There are two types of Auctions:
1) Trustee Sale â€“ When a lender/servicer goes through the process of a non-judicial foreclosure the last step is the Trustee Sale on the County Courthouse steps. The amounts of seasoned investors at these events far outweigh the number of â€œnewbies.â€ If you are looking for actual Trusteeâ€™s Sale auctions, they are published in the newspaper on a weekly basis under â€œpublic notices.â€ Notices are also typically posted at the entrance of the County Courthouse.
Here are a few things other points to consider:
-You will have no professional representation during the purchase.
-You will have no escrow, or title report/insurance. Therefore, you have no assurance there are no other "hidden" liens/loans on the property. For example, see
"REOs: How Buyers Can Avoid Hidden Unsecured Property Tax Liens"
-"Loans" need not apply; California state law requires liquid funds when your bid is accepted. The Trustee accepts cash or cashierâ€™s checks (and nothing else). Most who do this on an ongoing basis will go to the auction with several denominations of cashierâ€™s checks up to the amount they are willing to pay for the property(s) of interest. Any cashier's check overage will be returned to you at a later time.
-You will be responsible for removing any occupants, who may not be the previous owners. Tenants who are sued for eviction may retaliate in the most property-destructive ways.
-You will have NO professional inspections before you buy. Forget about any disclosures from the seller as to the condition of the home or neighborhood.
2) Auction Company â€“ Each auction company will have their individual process posted on their website to tell you about deposit requirements and how to view the homes (i.e. http://www.williamsauction.com ). You have to have a Cashierâ€™s check for deposit at a public auction. Seasoned bidders will have multiple Cashierâ€™s checks of different denominations to make up a particular bid of a home. These auctions allow the bank(s) to unload lots of properties faster in this "bid-up" environment. It's really more of a pressure sales environment based on the premise that pitting fairly unskilled buyers against each other results in higher selling prices for the sellers. Have a drop-dead figure for each property you bid on and once you reach it â€œwalk away.â€ Although you do get some time to do inspections, this is really a process for someone who is intimate with eyeing defects and has some level of construction experience allowing them to walk into a house and know what it will cost to place it back into shape.
From a highest-to-lowest risk scale you have:
1) Trustee Sale,
2) Auction Company Sale,
3) REO (reduced disclosure requirements),
4) Short Sale (primarily risk is approval timeline), and
5) Non-Distressed Sale.
Unless you have the scar tissue from prior Trustee/Auction sales, you are NOT a first time home buyer, you have ample purchase and renovation funds, you can personally walk/inspect a property and you have construction/structural experience then a Trustee/Auction sale is probably NOT for you!
"Is there a way to find out what bank owns the house and would they possibly accept an offer before auction?"
It's fairly easy to find out which bank owns the home by performing a public records search (many times the property is transferred to a holding company); HOWEVER, it is highly unlikely they would entertain an offer before the sale - this is what Short Sales address.
And, NO, you cannot pre-bid.
Investors have been trying to jump the gun for a couple years now; and the deck is stacked against them.
Some investors buy a dozen homes, hopping that the good ones will cancel out the bad ones: But if you are a novice, you should concentrate on quality, not quantity.
Watching the flippers on HGTV; there are a million sad stories out there.
Good luck and may God bless
Unless you are a seasoned investor willing to take significant risks I think you would be better off finding a good local realtor to help you find a good home at a very, very good price. Perhaps a short sale or even a foreclosed home.