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Searching For REOs

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Posted On: 07/03/2013

Question:

I'm interested in buying two foreclosed properties. One is owned by one major lender and the second is owned by a different major lender. Neither lender seems to speaking with potential investors. What's my next step?

Answer:

See Your Public Records

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Your local property records office or property tax office may have information online to show who owns the property.

Then again, maybe not.

"Since the housing bubble burst seven years ago, almost two million properties have started but never completed the foreclosure process, according to RealtyTrac," writes Les Christie in a February 2013 CNNMoney report. "While no one knows the exact number, it's estimated that tens of thousands could be zombie foreclosures."

The reason for "zombie" homes, Christie explains, is that lenders have not yet taken possession of the property in order to save on taxes. This delay means the costs stay under the borrower’s name, even though the borrower no longer occupies or controls the property.

So, how can you find more information?

First, check local property and tax records.

Second, contact local water companies. Outstanding water bills are often a lien on the property, and the water company may be able to identify the owner.

Third, if the property is part of a homeowners association, then see if they can provide contact information. Unpaid association, condo and co-op bills can also be a lien against the property, giving the HOA a reason to have contact information as well as an interest in the property.

And lastly, you may be tempted to go and knock on some the doors, but don't: Because of state and local regulations regarding "foreclosure rescue," it's best to speak with a local real estate broker or attorney so you know the rules before contacting owners directly or by mail.

The current occupants could be squatters in an abandoned property and perhaps not especially welcoming to strangers.

If there is an identifiable lender you can always call and ask for their REO (real estate-owned) specialists. Ask if there is a "single point of contact" for the property, one person who is familiar with both the property and the current status of the loan.

Peter G. Miller is the author of The Common-Sense Mortgage and a veteran real estate columnist. Have a question? Please write to peter@ctwfeatures.com.

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