To address your concerns, I wouldn't say there's a "catch" in foreclosures. It's important to get a home inspection when you're purchasing any type of home (i.e. resale, foreclosure, & even a new home). A home inspection helps to reveal any problems with the home.
Also, I truly believe it's a common myth that foreclosures are trashes with vandalism caused by the disgruntled previous owner. I disagree with this common notion because these homeowners have become emotionally attached to their home and are not as likely to trash it, even if they are losing it to foreclosure. A foreclosure is just a misfortune to someone's situation and isn't necesarily a reflection of the homeowner's character. As a matter of fact, I've viewed the interiors of many nice foreclosures that are in move in condition. I believe that the majority of "trashed" foreclosures are the work of vandals and/or squatters looking for a place to crash. You typically won't get much vandalism in nicer, family friendly neighborhoods. The majority of vandalism, in my opinion, tends to be in the intown neighborhoods.
As far as there being a lot of foreclosures in Marietta, that's just a sign of the times. Unfortunately, some areas have impacted more severly than others in terms of foreclosures. A lot of times this is simply because people have gotten into buying homes with prices way over their heads. It's a fact that foreclosures are evident in all type of neighborhoods, including upscale, exclusive neighborhoods.
I truly believe that in today's market, we have to be more wise in the way we purchase real estate. Not to take advantage of someone's misfortune, but today's buyer can benefit from foreclosures. Not only are you able to find nice foreclosed homes, you also have the potential at instant equity and you save money. I like to think of foreclosures as bargain shopping. Just like buying a car, a 2008 model is just as good as a 2005. It's the same body type just different year & more miles.
I would love to help you find some foreclosures that meet your criteria. What type of home are you looking for?
Queen - this is food for thought for you and any other potential Georgia buyer. Did you know that the new Georgia Purchase and Sale Agreement says that "at closing, Buyer agrees to pay Seller the purchase price of the property in cash, cashier's check, certified check or wire transfer of IMMEDIATELY AVAILABLE funds?" Did you know that in Georgia in 2008, unless you stipulate otherwise, Sellers only work with Buyers who can buy under the terms I just stated?
That means, line up the financing first. Be 100% sure about your financial status before you pursue any purchase. That means, the bank that is financing may not want to fund a distressed property - find that out up front. That means, have funding for the due diligence period - $1000 to $2000 - ready to go at Binding Agreement. That means have a right to terminate. That means, pay for every inspection that matters. That means, know your lender and your loan before you write up any paper.
Furthermore, the Buyer's funding lender would like to see some skin in the game from the Buyer - a downpayment. The Seller would like to see substantial Earnest Money - if the Buyer defaults, the Buyer should suffer.
Fabiola is right - there are some hidden gems amongst Georgia's distressed properties, and the other answers here are 100% great advice. Caveat emptor.
If you have some cash and want to invest in a distressed property then you are a better buyer for that type of property. If you are seeking 100% financing, then you should probably look for more move in ready, fully disclosed properties and seek a win /win with a motivated Georgia seller. We have a lot of these available!
It's important to have an experienced Realtor to help you navigate the foreclosure timetables as well.
All the responses so far are right on. Be on high alert for any problems with the property!
In addition if you are considering short sales in your search and even some bank or corporate owned property you can sometimes expect slower than normal response times if you submit an offer. Many times banks will accept and hold several offers and review them all at the same time and choose the best one. This process can take as long as 4-6 weeks in some cases.
HUD foreclossures work faster and you usually get better response times and organization due to the companies contracted to do this work for HUD. You can visit my blog where I just made a post on HUD foreclosures in Gwinnett County. If you would like some more information on HUD homes you can contact me and I will be happy to share some sites I use to search for and monitor HUD and other foreclosure homes.
Someone who has lost their home because they could not afford their home most likely could not afford to upkeep their home; however, that does not mean the home is not structurally sound. As Joshua stated, there are many new homes that have been foreclosed where you could move right in. I have seen foreclosures that needed a lot of repair... I have seen foreclosures that needed minor cosmetic repair, and I have seen foreclosures that are move in ready. There are so many foreclosures in the marketplace that are 5 years or newer in age!
Foreclosures are not always a deal and foreclosures are not the only deals in the marketplace. Look at the homes that are available to you within the area you want to be. Look at new, resales, and foreclosures choosing the home that best suits your needs and negotiate the best deal possible.
2008 is the year to buy. I strongly believe that the deals will start to disappear year end.