Buying a REO or foreclosure in Baltimore

What's an REO?

REO's or Real Estate Owned are houses that have completed the foreclosure process and are presently owned by the bank or mortgage company. This is different than real estate up for foreclosure auction. When buying a property during a foreclosure sale, you must pay at least the loan balance plus any interest and other fees accrued during the foreclosure process. The buyer must also be prepared to pay with cash in hand. And on top of all that, you'll receive the property entirely as is. That could consist of prevailing liens and even current denizens that may require eviction.

A REO, conversely, is a more tidy and attractive option. The REO property did not find a buyer during foreclosure auction. The lender now owns it. The bank will see to the removal of tax liens, evict occupants if needed and generally prepare for the issuance of a title insurance policy to the buyer at closing. Do be aware that REOs may be exempt from normal disclosure requirements. In California, for example, banks are not required to give a Transfer Disclosure Statement, a document that normally requires sellers to disclose any defects they are informed of.

Are REO's a bargain in Baltimore?

It is occasionally assumed that any REO must be a good buy and an opportunity for easy money. This isn't necessarily true. You have to be cautious about buying a REO if your intent is profit from the sell. While it's true that the bank is often anxious to sell it soon, they are also strongly encouraged to get as much as they can for it. When contemplating the value of a REO, you need to look closely at comparable sales in the neighborhood and be sure to take into account the time and cost of any repairs or remodeling needed to prepare the house for resale. The bargains with money making potential exist, and many people do very well flipping foreclosures. Still there are also many REO's that are not good buys and may lose money.

Ready to make an offer?

Most lenders have a REO department that you'll work with when buying a REO property from them. Commonly the REO department will use a listing agent to get their REO properties listed on the local MLS. Prior to making your offer, you'll want to contact either the listing agent or REO department at the bank and discover as much as you can about what they know about the condition of the property and what their process is for taking offers. Since banks typically sell REO properties "as is", it's often prudent to include an inspection contingency in your offer that gives you time to check for unseen damage and retract the offer if you find it.

As with making any offer on real estate, providing documentation of your ability to pay may make your offer more attractive, such as a pre-approval letter from a lender. After you've made your offer, you can expect the bank to counter offer. From there it will be up to you to decide whether to accept their counter, or make another counter offer. Understand, you'll be contending with a process that most likely involves a group of people at the bank, and they don't work evenings or weekends. It's quite common for the process of offers and counter offers to take days or even weeks.