Foreclosure research is one of the most critical steps in the process of investing in real estate foreclosures. It is also oftentimes the step that is most neglected. Not every house in foreclosure is a deal worth pursuing. Thus foreclosure research is the fundamental tool to weed out the good deals from the bad, much like finding "diamonds in the rough". Knowledge of how to conduct this research and what to look for are what sets the successful real estate investors apart from the unsuccessful ones.
Foreclosure research involves:
- Identifying foreclosure leads
- Gathering all of the information about the foreclosing property
- Analyzing the data to make an assessment whether to pursue or to discard this lead
Foreclosures are typically handled by county governments in every state, and every state has its own foreclosure laws. But the general laws are the same nationwide. What are the pieces of information you need to gather in order to perform your foreclosure research?
- Foreclosures notices are published in the legal notices section of the local newspaper or are posted in some format (could be a list or could be a notice on a bulletin board) at the county government office that handles foreclosures. In some states, a lawsuit is filed by the bank against the homeowner and thus a court case known as a lis pendens is filed and made available in the government court case files.
- Typically, the basic information about the property whose mortgage is being foreclosed upon is available in the court case, such as the property address, the homeowner's name, the total amount due, and the date on which the foreclosure auction will take place if the loan is not brought current or paid in full before the end of the redemption period , or grace period the homeowner has to remedy the mortgage loan delinquency.
- More detailed information about the property is made available in the county recorder's office. All information about every parcel of land is maintained by this office: all property transfers and sale amounts, the amounts of all mortgages taken out on all properties, the property taxes owed, liens or judgments placed against homeowners or properties.
- An appraisal of the house is necessary to determine how much it is actually worth. This can be done by looking at tax records, using the various tools online that generate free comps, or by looking at recent sales transactions of similar homes in the same area which are usually part of the public record.
- And equally important is to physically drive by the house in question to visually ensure that it is worth investing in. How is the neighborhood? Is it a good neighborhood to invest in? How is the condition of the house? Is it vacant? Does it need repair?
All of the above information is available for free through the county court and records keeping divisions for each county in the nation. However, if you are an individual looking to get your feet wet in real estate investing while maintaining a regular day job, it would be very difficult to go to the government office, since it is only open Monday through Friday during business hours. You would not be able to get any research done. (Or if you are an experienced real estate investor, you would not be able to work on your existing deals because you would be forced to spend time at the government offices.)
Therefore, to solve this problem, thousands of counties across the nation have made their court files and recorders office records available electronically on the Internet or available through computer database data feeds. And this information is consolidated for consumption by the general public. Thus, you are free to conduct your foreclosure research from your own office or your own own home, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, via the Internet.