A foreclosure property may present a great deal, but there are also a number of inherent risks. Richard Bell of law firm Bell Alliance offers advice and a five-step process
Purchasing a foreclosure property can sometimes be a great bargain. However, many potential buyers and real estate agents are unaware of the process and risks of buying such a property. This article outlines the five steps of purchasing a foreclosure property and describes the two biggest risks of purchasing these properties.
Five Steps of Purchasing a Foreclosure
Step 1: View the Property
Depending on the situation, it can sometimes be a challenge to view the property, particularly in circumstances where the owner refuses to cooperate with the viewing, listing and showing of the property. But it is essential that you see what you’re buying, so ensure that you do view it.
Step 2: Do Your Due Diligence
Make sure you are happy with the property since it is purchased “as is, where is”. Unlike a standard property purchase, with a foreclosed property at the time of completion or possession, the property may not be in the exact condition it was in when you had viewed it. Investigate the zoning and any applicable bylaws. Ensure you have financing in place, or are pre-approved for a mortgage.
Step 3: Submit an Offer
Make an offer to the listing real estate agent. All offers must be free of any buyer’s subjects, and only “subject to court approval”. It is very important to note once your offer is accepted by the lender you are contractually bound to purchase the property if the court approves your offer. Be sure to include your full legal name on the offer, as this is what will be listed on the court order if you are successful in purchasing the property. Additionally, if there are two people purchasing the property, such as spouses, you will want to clearly indicate whether the property is being purchased as joint tenants, or tenants in common. Once an offer has been accepted by the lender, the lender’s lawyer will schedule a court date to present the offer to the court for approval. Ensure the offer is the highest price you are comfortable with, because you may only have one chance for the court to review your offer.
Step 4: Competing Offers and Contesting the Sale
A few days prior to the court hearing, the offer price will become public, and other potential buyers will have the opportunity to outbid the original offer on the court date. Additionally, other creditors and even the current owner(s) may attempt to contest the sale price if they believe the property has a higher value.
Step 5: Court Date
All offers must be presented in a sealed envelope containing a bank draft for the deposit. The court will usually award the purchase of the property to the highest offer. The original buyer should be present in court to submit a higher sealed bid if there are other potential buyers in attendance presenting offers. Once the court accepts an offer and approves of the sale, a court order is granted in the name of the successful bidder. The completion and possession date for the purchase is usually set for 14 days following the date of the court order.
Risks of Purchasing a Foreclosure Property
The main risk of purchasing a foreclosure property, is that it is purchased on an “as is, where is” basis. Sometimes fixtures such as lights, faucets and cabinets may have been removed from the property or are damaged. The property is often left unclean with unwanted trash and items left behind.
An additional risk to consider when purchasing a foreclosed property is the former owner or occupants may not vacate the property in accordance with the court order. In this situation, the vendor is legally required to make an application to the court for a “writ of possession” and receive assistance from a court bailiff to evict and remove the occupants. This could lead to a delay in taking possession of the property.
Bearing all of this in mind, don’t shy away from considering foreclosed properties, because at the end of the day you can be purchasing a property you love at a discounted price. It is rare that an owner occupier will hinder the sale process since it is not in their best interest to do so. Understanding the process and potential risks of purchasing a foreclosed property will allow you to navigate purchase with greater knowledge and confidence.