How do you go about discovering foreclosure homes, and do you need to use a realtor to buy one? We live in SF, but are considering either Piedmont,

Asked by Sf Mommy, San Francisco, CA Fri Nov 20, 2009

Orinda, or San Mateo (our initial list), and notice some bank-owned homes show up in these markets, which seem like a good deal.

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Pacita Dimac…, Agent, Oakland, CA
Fri Nov 20, 2009
It's always tempting to go for bank-owned properties because of all the things we've heard and read about good deals. And yes, there are quite a few, even in the high-end prices and topnotch areas.

Hopefully, in searching for these properties, you are not throwing caution to the wind.

Nearly all banks, after they foreclose, will engage a realtor to list the property for sale. These realtors are "graded" based on how quickly they can get a property sold, how high they can get for it, and for as clean an escrow as possible (no drama, no headaches).

As such, these realtors will post these properties for sale on the MLS which in turn are picked up by multiple sites --- so these properties will show up in more than one place.

To protect your interests, engage a separate realtor to represent you as your buyer's agent.

Be aware that
1. If you buy a property at auction, there is no guarantee that you can get title insurance for it --- the escrow officers will tell you this up front. It may take a year before you can get insurance. If the property is for sale at a trustee sale at the county courthouse, be prepared to bid (seasoned investors prepared by bringing cashier's check as a they bid in increments),

2. There are no guarantees. The sale is AS IS. So DON'T WAIVE your right to buyer investigation /inspection. If your offer is accepted, invest in a good inspection. This is recommended whether you buy a foreclosure or regular sale. Better to know right away the extent of damage/repairs and factor that into the total COST of buying and rehabbing the property

3. If you are getting a loan, note that some loans may not be approved if the properties don't meet certain guidelines. For example, some homes may be looted and stripped of appliances. If there is no working stove in the house, the kitchen is considered non-functional, and the house won't qualify for a loan.

4. Engage a realtor experienced in writing offers on bank-owned properties. For example, you can/should ask for title insurance to be paid by the foreclosing bank. Most banks won't pay for repairs or repacements since the sale is AS IS. Most banks won't pay for HOA delinquent fees/fines/penalties. Some foreclosures may not qualifiy for FHA/VA loans. Who pays what for city and county transfer taxes?

5. Remember that not all distressed homes you see on certain sites, like RealtyTrac, are bank-owned. Some of them are pre-foreclosures where the owners have an opportunity to cure the default. Others may be on sale as short sales.

6. Whichever type of sale you get, bank-owned or regular, ask or get a home owner's warranty. Many of us offer this free of charge, or as a gift to our clients. It's an inexpensive way to have peace of mind.

Good luck on your search!
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Voices Member, , Benton County, OR
Fri Nov 20, 2009
Sf Momma

If you are wanting to browse you may want to check this out. The Banks and the Gov. have created web sites to provide information on the purchase process used by each of them plus you are able to see their listed properties for sale and have access to a lot of information.
It's Free and updated constantly...Sites like..

.... .... ...

The links to all of these Bank and Gov. sites can be found here.... ...

You can use this to find info on Tax sales ect.....…

Good luck, Dunes
1 vote
Geri Murphy, Agent, Lafayette, CA
Wed Dec 2, 2009
You do not need a realtor to find foreclosures or bank-owned homes, there are plenty of websites that offer that information, either for free or for a minimal fee, such as However, it makes a lot of sense to establish a relationship with a realtor in the area who is familiar with REOs (bank-owned) properties and can do the legwork for you. Finding a property is only the beginning - particularly in this market. After the initial negotiations, if you are lucky enough to get into contract, there can be other obstacles to overcome - some that can be quite confounding. The essence of all of this is that it is helpful to have a partner who has been there and who can help guide the way through the forrest, and help you find the way home! It can be a journey, but worth it in the end!
Best of luck,
Geri Murphy, ABR, CRS, GRI
Real Estate Consultant
DRE #10252019
J. Rockcliff Realtors
(510) 610-3963
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Linda Van Dr…, Agent, Orinda, CA
Fri Nov 20, 2009
Dear SF Mommy,

This is a great question.

My suggestions are:

Establish a close working relationship with an established, savvy realtor in these communities who is not only familiar with making offers on bank owned properties but who is also skilled in educating you on the most important steps in making a successful purchase .... and then just be patient.

Your dream home willcome along!

My very best of luck to you,

Linda Van Drent, GRI, CRS
Associate Broker
Coldwell Banker, Orinda
DRE# 01051129
Web Reference:
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Christy Brock, Agent, Alameda, CA
Fri Nov 20, 2009
If you are interested in Piedmont, you should definitely work with a realtor to find foreclosures. Although there are none in the MLS, there are 2 homes that have been taken back and 6 scheduled for auction. The right agent may be able to help you to purchase one of the 6 scheduled for auction or one of the 2 that are currently bank owned.
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Dave Sutton, Agent, Portland, OR
Fri Nov 20, 2009
Hi Sf Mommy,

I agree with all who've posted before me, but wanted to add one thing. You MUST have your financing ready to go before you even start looking. I just sent a client information about a home that came on the market just today and offers will be opened Monday morning. That's maybe a little shorter time than most, but not by much. If you need a mortgage broker contact I can provide a couple if you like.
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Lisa Cartola…, Agent, Oakland, CA
Fri Nov 20, 2009

There are definitely some bank owned properties in the Orinda area but Piedmont tends to not have an influx of bank owned properties. Most of the bank owned propeties are listed on the MLS and advertised as other homes are.

Bank owned properties can be a good deal, but often there is a reason they are namely deferred maintenance. Every bank owned property has it's own story and the REO properties can at times be challeging to navigate. Every bank that lists a property will often have a different set of perameters and timelines that they are looking to meet and this needs to be balanced with the needs of the buyer. List prices can also vary for properties and often times in this current market many homes are listed below market value to encourage multiple offers.

While you are not required to use a Realtor to purchase a property, it is highly recommended that you do. Working with a buyers agent will ensure that you have someone who is looking out for your fiduciary interests and will also have a handle on all of the laws, regulations and ordinances that are there to protect you as the buyer as well as ensure you fully understand the property and your responsiblities as a home owner.

Working with someone who not only understands the local market, as well as the ins and outs of bank owned properties, short sales as well as the local laws regulations and ordinances would be a good idea to consider.

I hope that helps!

Lisa Cartolano
Alain Pinel Realtors
Web Reference:
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THE COPLAND…, Agent, Oakland, CA
Fri Nov 20, 2009
Hi SF Mommy,

Great to hear you are thinking of moving over to this side of the bridge. The deals in the Piedmont, Montclair, Orinda, Lafayette and areas like these are out there. However, they are not always Foreclosures. The best bet is to work with an agent. They are in constant involvement with what homes are on the market. Often, times by the time a home hits many of the outside sites the home may already be in contract. Your agent will be able to assist you and make sure you are not walking into a poor location or investment.

Our office is located in Montclair Village in Oakland. My father and I work as a team and assist many people in these types of cross bay or cross tunnel moves. The usual factors are schools and close proximity to SF commute. Lafayette is also another great city to keep in mind. Lafayette has much more to do in town and is only a 5 min longer BART ride. My clients just purchased a great home after deciding to relocate from Alameda.

Please, let me know if you have any further questions or need further assistance.

Best Wishes and Happy Thanksgiving!

Tiffany Copland
The Copland Team
Web Reference:
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Suzanne Look…, Agent, Lafayette, CA
Fri Nov 20, 2009
Hi SF Mommy,
You can get instant MLS foreclosure listing emails sent to you directly if you ask a realtor to work with you. As mentioned below, you do not pay for the services of a realtor when you are making a purchase. However, you should choose one that knows themarket and that you trust.
Good luck,
Suzanne Looker
Web Reference:
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Matthew Bart…, Agent, Glendora, CA
Fri Nov 20, 2009
Hi SF Mommy,

You do not have to use a Realtor to purchase a bank owned home. However, I highly recommend that you do. The reality is the Realtor's who represent these banks are focused only on their clients interests. The banks themselves only care about their bottom line. You must therefore have a Realtor looking out for you and your families interests. Furthemore, hiring a Realtor to represent you will give you the best access to all foreclosed homes in the area that you're interested in. I hope this answers your question. Good luck!
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Gene Riemens…, Agent, Brentwood, CA
Fri Nov 20, 2009
Not using a Realtor will not save you any money. The listing agent will generally just keep both commissions. Generally speaking the commission is paid by the seller. The Listing Agent will not work for you, they work for the seller. You should get an agent that is working for you - and let the seller pay for that agent.

Attached is a link to every bank owned home on the market in the east bay.

Let me know if I can be of help or if you want to see other lists of homes.
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