by Dan Krell (c) 2009.
It’s no secret that foreclosure rates continue to climb. It is unfortunate that many home owners have lost their homes, but for some it is an opportunity to buy a home at a potential bargain price.
In past foreclosure markets the secret to finding a great deal was to communicate directly with the bank. If you knew where to look or whom to call, you could get each bank’s list of foreclosures and present your offer directly to the bank’s foreclosure department. In some cases, you could negotiate to buy a home as soon as the bank took title.
In today’s market, the game has changed significantly such that banks no longer directly deal with home buyers to sell their bank owned homes. These days, for a variety of reasons, banks hire real estate agents to list their foreclosures on the MLS. Even HUD lists their FHA foreclosures with real estate agents. You can still find each lender’s list of bank owned homes on their websites, but instead of providing the contact information of a bank representative the bank will refer you to the listing agent.
In an attempt to remain anonymous, many home buyers turn to the internet for information to minimize intrusions from seemingly aggressive real estate agents. The internet is chock full of websites advertising foreclosure listings, information and training; some services are free, while others charge a subscription fee. Two popular websites offering foreclosure listings are Realtytrac.com and Foreclosurepoint.com.
Along with the flood of foreclosures comes the increase of consumer complaints about foreclosure related businesses- including internet foreclosure web sites. Some companies may deceive the public to make money or to collect personal information. Some foreclosure sites use false advertising to lure home buyers to subscribe to their service; some attempt to attract and “hook” home buyers seeking foreclosure information to sell other real estate and/or ancillary services. Sometimes companies attempt to compile personal information to be sold to third parties.
On May 1st, one national company (operating multiple websites- including Foreclosuretown.com) was issued a “cease and desist” order by the North Dakota Attorney General for allegedly misleading the public (www.ag.state.nd.us). Wayne Stenehjem, Attorney General of North Dakota, followed up on many consumer complaints including the misrepresentation of foreclosures. The company over represented the number of foreclosures to lure consumers to pay a monthly fee to receive foreclosure lists. One consumer complained that his home was listed as a foreclosure even though he never missed a mortgage payment. Additionally, photos used to depict the listings were often not the actual homes; the photos may have misrepresented the actual size of the home by associating a much larger home than the actual listing.
If you are serious about buying a foreclosure or just interested wanting to seek information, why not work with a licensed Realtor? Local Realtors not only have access to the local MLS (where bank owned homes are listed for sale), but also have access to tools to identify pre-foreclosures as well as foreclosure auctions.
However, many accept the fact that home buyers wanting to remain anonymous will continue to turn to the internet. If you plan to use any internet foreclosure listing service, do your homework to make sure the company is legitimate and delivers what is advertised.
This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of May 18, 2009. Copyright (c) 2009 Dan Krell.