With interest rates at record lows and the stock market looking too perilous for small investors, many people are putting money in an asset they understand – real estate.
One of the best places to invest is in foreclosures and bargain residential real estate.
The current market conditions make it a perfect time for a small investor to purchase one or more foreclosure properties for their private residence, rental or resale. During economic downturns, more upscale homes go into foreclosure, so the notion that foreclosure homes are only available in crime-ridden areas is inaccurate. Beachfront and homes in affluent areas are part of the mix of foreclosed properties available.
But anyone considering buying a foreclosed home should forget about paying pennies on the dollar.
“You can buy foreclosures for as cheap as 30% or 40% below market, but most foreclosures sell for 5% below market,” said John T. Reed, editor of Real Estate Investor’s Monthly, a newsletter based in Alamo, Calif.
Yet the savings may be twofold if the property is purchased from the lender who holds the mortgage that’s in default. That lender may be willing to waive some closing costs, maybe even offer a break on the interest rate or the down payment.
Investment of time
A novice must learn to navigate the foreclosure process. But Todd Beitler, owner of the Real Estate Library in Boca Raton, Fla., says the time and effort can translate to savings. “If somebody spends 10 hours a week for five weeks to do research, it’s worth it.”
For most consumers, however, the foreclosure process can prove daunting, Reed says. Good buys are available, but they require research, preparation, patience and persistence.
The foreclosure process starts when a property owner falls behind on mortgage payments. Many owners of homes that go into foreclosure have been struggling financially for almost a year before they give up, which usually means that the house has not received needed repairs or general maintenance for a while.
This may include everything from missing light bulbs to roof leaks. Tree limbs in front yards, broken appliances and windows, and dirty carpets, floors and walls are found in even very-affluent area foreclosures.
This can be a boon – or boondoggle – for a buyer. Houses in poor condition might fetch bargain prices, but repairs can boost the cost again. The first rule of real estate, “location, location, location,” applies in these situations. If there is trash in every room of the house, but the foreclosure is in a good area with high property resale values, hold your nose, walk through the entire house and consider making a low offer.