Foreclosures and short sales seldom happen in Palo Alto. There are more buyers than sellers here and prices have been holding up, so financially distressed homes are scarce.
Because of the demand for houses in town there are a significant number of sales that occur off market, meaning that they are not advertised publicly. They are known as exclusive listings. Buyers find them usually through their agents who know about them in two ways: an agent who has an exclusive listing usually tells the other agents in her/his company about it and there is a new cross-company data service for exclusive listings that is open to agents only.
Listings (homes for sale) are exclusive for a couple of reasons. Sometimes the seller does not want to have a sign out front and agents bringing buyers in all the time. Most times the home is being prepared for going onto the MLS to be sold publicly. In the meantime, usually a week or two, the agent offers it for sale as an exclusive.
To find out about exclusives, choose an agent to work with you that you like. (If you are a first time home buyer, your agent's fee will be paid by the seller.)
To toot our horn, Alain Pinel Realtors is the dominant agency in Palo Alto, and we tend to have the largest number of exclusive listings in town. Unfortunately for buyers (but fortunately for sellers) that number is never big because the homes usually sell quickly.
I am helping several buyers right now find homes that are not on the market yet, exclusive or public. If you would like to find out how I do that or talk about our market or the process of finding and buying a home, give me a call. The number should be in the Contact Me box on the right.
Good luck. Palo Alto is a great town to live in and to own a home in, as you probably already know.
The best thing for you to do is find the best agent/broker you can to help you. Foreclosures and short sales are more complex than "regular" sales and the expertise in these transactions will help you avoid problems.
It's a little bit far afield for us but interview until you find the right one.
Lance King/Owner-Managing Broker
Hook up with one of us agents if you don't have one already it is the best way to get what you want. I can set up a specific search for you so that when a short sale or REO becomes available you'll know right away, just let me know your needs and wants and we can go from there.
At your service,
CDPE-Certified Distressed Property Expert
Broker Associate, Paragon Real Estate Group CA DRE 01844627
All data from sources deemed reliable but subject to errors and omissions, and not warranted.