Mac and I have been buds a long, long time. We live in two different states but that has had no bearing on the strength of our friendship. We’ve known each other so long, in fact, that it sometimes seems like we’re in a race to see who goes gray faster. So, we like to compare notes, and heads, when we meet yearly in Yosemite. He always thinks I’m winning. I’m certain he is. But, not long after we both started buying and selling houses as a business years ago, it became clear that, at least when it comes to investing in real estate, I was taking the lead.
Of course, I attribute my success to having access to great qualified leads on distressed homes. Until recently, Mac wasn’t sure he agreed. Honestly, for a while, he was too bullheaded to even admit he was struggling. Then, in a moment of rare humility, he called me up to ask whether it was his not knowing how to find good foreclosure auctions that might be holding him back. It was the only thing he hadn’t tried, he said. Rather than brag about my lead, I told him where he could—and how he should—get great deals like me.
How to Find Foreclosure Auctions Near You
When a homeowner fails to stay current on their mortgage or falls behind on paying their taxes, their house typically enters the foreclosure pipeline and, very often, lands on the auction block. Sometimes, in judicial foreclosure states like New Jersey, the auction is ordered by the court when a lender wants to repossess a home. But, even in non-judicial foreclosure states like Michigan, mortgage holders prefer the auction process because it helps them to recoup some of their losses. When government entities foreclose on a home due to back taxes, they will attempt to auction the house for the full amount that’s owed. And, since final selling prices are frequently below market values for any of these scenarios, you get the chance to acquire a good deal if you’re the highest bidder.
In an attempt to find these sales so that you can buy a foreclosure auction home in your own backyard, it’s possible you’ve encountered some roadblocks. There is a lot of misinformation out there and it can seem like legitimate information has to be bought. Sometimes, however, the issue is simply what I like to call “user-error.” You don’t know where to look or how to look well. Or, maybe you haven’t tried yet and are curious whether that’s holding you back, too. Whatever your case may be, here’s how to search for foreclosure auctions in your area without having to pay a fee:
- Online. The Internet is not a bad place to start when looking for foreclosure auctions. The speed and accuracy for getting results from most online searches is impressive. The trick, of course, is to get as specific as possible with the wording in your search. Otherwise, you may find yourself falling down a rabbit hole of ads for paid services that always show first on the page—and, that aren’t anywhere near your place of business. Of course, those ads may lead you to free websites, like Zillow, where it seems you can find good deals being sold at an auction. But, you’ll have to search for and sift through foreclosures there, too. Plus, the accuracy of the data on sites like Zillow is questionable, especially for certain cities. What might initially look like a good deal may end up actually being a bad lead if the property is no longer available or never was. So, though an online search isn’t a bad place to start looking for auctions, it isn’t the most reliable source either.
- Newspapers. By law in most states, all foreclosure auctions must be advertised in local newspapers. These legal notices are usually posted about three weeks prior to the sale and typically include the sale date and time, auction location, and terms of sale, in addition to the property’s address and starting bid. The benefit of checking your local paper for auctions is that you get some lead time to perform due diligence, where possible, on a property as well as get funding in place. If and when you need more information, you’ll also know which auction house website to go since that’s included in the ad. In fact, it’s this information that you’ll need to pay special attention to. Just because there is an auction ad in the paper doesn’t mean that the sale for a specific property will happen. Sometimes, the homeowner gets current on their loan or files for bankruptcy and is granted more time to pay. So, once you find local auctions in your city or neighborhood’s paper, you’ll need to keep checking the auction houses’ websites to confirm the sale is on.
- Word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth may be your best source for leads on foreclosure auctions, especially if the recommendations come directly from your network. Licensed real estate agents and other professional real estate investors, for example, can probably tell you where to go as well as what to expect. If another local investor has had success buying property at a certain sale, then they’re the one whose lead you might want to follow. But, you’ll still want to proceed with caution. Just as no two properties are alike, no two auction experiences are alike. One, or even two, successful buys doesn’t guarantee that the suggestion is a good one. So, check out what others have to say and understand the auction house rules for buying, too—before you bid.
That last piece of advice I absolutely stand by. When looking for foreclosure auctions in the hopes of finding cheap real estate deals, recommendations from your network—in conjunction with your own research—are the best way to go. And, if I can now be considered a part of yours, let me make a suggestion: skip the auctions altogether. The time and energy you spend finding, learning about, and attending foreclosure auctions will be much better spent buying and selling homes brought to you by the owners themselves.
Your One-Stop Shop for the Best Deals in Town
Personally, I never liked attending foreclosure auctions—not even those recommended by my network—because home inspections were never allowed before you had to close. That’s pretty typical with auctions, but it’s not how I like to do business. Investing in real estate is risky enough without also having to risk buying a money pit sight unseen. No thanks. So, when I considered trying something new to boost my bottom line, like Mac, I became an independently owned and operated HomeVestors® franchisee. And, once I did, distressed homeowners in pre-foreclosure began calling me. How did they know to find me? They didn’t have to look far. The “We Buy Ugly Houses®” marketing campaign reaches distressed homeowners across the nation through TV, radio, and print. So, all they have to do when they’re ready to sell is pick up the phone. For me, it’s a kind of one-stop shop for the best deals in town. For them, it’s a relief that their home isn’t sent to a foreclosure auction.
Don’t risk a hair on your head by hassling with auctions. If you want to try a new way to get better leads, call HomeVestors instead!
Each franchise office is independently owned and operated.