Any relationship with this company should be done cautiously.
As the others have noted, RealtyTrac is simply a data collection site that posts information available from the recording of public notices, specifically, the Notice of Default , Notice of Trustee Sale, and the Trustee's Deed. These notices provide a schedule of when a home "may" be sold by the bank or other lien holder in a foreclosure sale, and when the home has become an REO or sold property. This does not mean, however, that the home will actually be sold in an auction or short sale--simply a recorded notice that the owners are behind in their payments. The prices that appear on RealtyTrac are, for the most part, the minimum bids set by the bank to cover the indebtedness or loan value on the home. The loan value, for many parts of California, does not necessarily reflect the actual market value of the home. The market values noted on RealtyTrac are based on the comparables in the immediate vicinity, but again, those comparables need to be adjusted to the actual condition of the home.
Many consumers swear by RealtyTrac in helping them find a home. Another source is ForeclosureRadar.com which provides essentially the same information for a slightly more competitive price. Both are great sources in seeing what's coming up, but to see accurate information, you will need to contact the county and later an asset manager to see what is or will be coming on the market for sale.
For the most part, Realtors do not use RealtyTrac. Because the number of homes that go from "distressed" (preforeclosure) to "bank owned" or REO is often vastly smaller than the devotees of RealtyTrac would have expected. Realtors tend to rely on the MLS, asset manager notices, and other websources that are often made available only to licensed Realtors to provide owners with reliable information about available bank owned homes. Working with a Realtor can certainly give you an "edge" in finding suitable REO homes.
I hope this answers your questions. Good luck and happy house hunting!!
Grace Morioka, SRES, e-Pro
Area Pro Realty
San Jose, CA
Sometimes it's nice to become a little informed before calling an agent as all agents are not worth the call.
Inform yourself , then INTERVIEW agents to see who the professionals are and who the "call me" people are.
You might also like looking here... http://www.sco.ca.gov/ardtax_public_auction.html
t search tool should help finding tax sale info... http://publicrecords.onlinesearches.com/Foreclosures-and-Tax
Look around, become informed, read the purchase/bid info on the Bank/Gov sites so you become familiar with the process and when you are ready choose a professional to assist you.
Good reading ... http://www.trulia.com/blog/matt_stigliano/2009/04/how_to_cho
Good luck, Dunes
The best thing you can do is to retain an excellent buyer agent to work with you in the purchase of your property. An excellen buyer agent will search ALL available properties for you that meet the criteria you have given to them. Those of us who are full time agents spend hours looking and previewing property for our clients.If you only want foreclosure property, just let your Agent know this as well.
Best of Luck to you!