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How to Close on a Distressed Property in 2024

November 2, 2023

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How To Invest In A Distressed Home

If you’re active in recent discourse surrounding real estate, you might know that foreclosures are currently on the rise in the U.S.  

ATTOM, a leading provider of property data nationwide, reported that foreclosure filings were up 115% last year compared to 2021. This trend continued into 2024, the first six months of which saw a total of 186,000 homes receiving a foreclosure filing. 

This recent uptick in foreclosures is likely due in part to the dissolution of foreclosure moratoriums during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, its effect is that there are now many more distressed properties on the market. These properties are opportunities for real estate investors—one could even be your next property. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of investing in distressed homes and how to close on one this year while the opportunity is ripe. 

What is a Distressed Home? 

A distressed home is one that is currently or soon to be foreclosed on by the bank. This is usually because the owner fell behind on mortgage payments or property taxes. Under federal law, the mortgage-holder typically has at least 120 days after they first fall behind on payments before the bank can legally foreclose on them. Then, the bank starts the foreclosure process and eventually takes back ownership of the home. 

There are several types of distressed properties: 

  • Preforeclosure – Properties on the verge of foreclosure. 
  • Real Estate Owned (REO) – Lender-owned properties that weren’t sold at an auction. 
  • Short Sales – A property for which the mortgage-holder had negative equity (they owed more than the property is worth), and the bank agreed to a lower payoff. 
  • Government-Owned REOs – Homes bought with federal loans which were defaulted on. 

Despite the unfortunate circumstances under which a home becomes distressed, these properties are a profitable niche targeted by many real estate investors.  

Why Would I Want to Invest in a Distressed Home? 

Once they’ve reassumed ownership of the home, the bank or lender wants to get it off their hands as quickly as possible—they typically don’t want to maintain the property. This means they’re highly motivated to sell the house and may do so at a discounted rate or below market value. This is the primary reason why you might want to buy a distressed home – they will often cost less than a similar home in the same neighborhood. The lender wants cash now, and as an investor you can use that to your advantage to buy a property substantially cheaper than you would be able to otherwise.  

Distressed homes also make good fix-and-flips or BRRRR deals. By renovating a distressed property and selling or renting it later at higher rates than you paid for it, you can profit immensely. 

However, there are also risks associated with distressed properties. The property could be in poor condition, or substantial repairs could be needed. This is especially true if the property is sold as-is, meaning you would not get the opportunity to have the seller make repairs before you acquire the property. You may also encounter title issues due to unpaid property taxes that cost you more than you were anticipating. 

How to Find Distressed Property 

If you’re interested in this strategy and want to know how to find distressed property, your best bet is to look for properties that haven’t actually been foreclosed on yet but are at high risk for foreclosure. These are homes in “preforeclosure,” or the period after the mortgage-holder has received notice that they are in default but before the property is actually foreclosed on. Owners of homes in preforeclosure have high motivation to sell, but their homes aren’t available for public auction yet, so this period is an ideal time to buy for investors. 

You can find these homes using MLS data, or zero in on properties in the area you’re looking on listing sites like preforeclosure.com.  

Where Do I Find Distressed Property Near Me? 

If you’re looking to invest locally, you might start with a search like “Distressed property near me.” A better strategy, however, is to visit local credit unions, banks, or bank REO sites that have listings of foreclosed properties in your area. You might also be able to find this information at a local tax assessor office, where property tax records are tracked. This information is publicly available, and going to a source directly within your community could be a faster way to find distressed homes than searching a nationwide public records directory. 

Of course, you can also look for fully foreclosed properties at public auctions in your area. A local realtor will also have information about foreclosures near you, and they also have experience working with the MLS and identifying these properties. 

Where Can I Find a Distressed Property List? 

If you’re simply looking for a master distressed property list to browse online or filter through, there are several to choose from. Here are a few to investigate: 

Closing the Sale 

How you go about closing a deal on a distressed property depends on which stage of the foreclosure process the property is currently at.  

Let’s assume for our example that you want to buy a home in preforeclosure. Here’s the steps you’ll need to undergo to purchase this home: 

1. Get Pre-Approved for a Loan 

Whenever you finance a property, you need a lender who agrees to lend you money and is willing to issue you a pre-approval letter. This letter is proof that you are able to borrow the amount of money you’ll need to purchase the property. Cash purchases are faster, but you won’t always have the ability to purchase in cash. Make sure you’ve done your research on the property you’re thinking of buying before heading to the bank, as having a solid plan prepared for your investment and its repairs can help persuade the lender to approve your loan. 

2. Get the Home Inspected 

Next, have the home inspected by a professional home inspector. A qualified inspector will review all the major systems and components of the property, including its infrastructure, electrical wiring, plumbing, roof, foundation, etc. The inspection will identify any major property damage, mold, HVAC issues, structural problems, and other concerns that could decrease the value of the property. 

3. Make an Offer 

With the inspection results in consideration, make an offer on the property. Typically, this offer needs to be approved by the bank even though the deal is a private one between you and the homeowner. Unless the deal is short sales, the bank is looking for an offer at least as much as the outstanding balance on the mortgage. Short sales means you buy the property for less than the outstanding mortgage due. 

4. Negotiate for a Fair Price 

If the homeowner doesn’t accept your first offer (which many do), it’s time to start the negotiation process. You should present evidence from the home inspection to prove why you believe the property is worth what it is, given the repairs needed and the amount left owed on the mortgage. You’ll also want to include contingencies on your offer, which are conditions that must be fulfilled before the purchase or else you are allowed to back out of the sale. Common contingencies include title contingencies (the seller must have clear title) and appraisal contingencies (the property must appraise for at least the sales price).  

5. Close on the Deal 

The final step in acquiring the property is to close the deal and complete any necessary paperwork. This includes receiving a date for the property’s closure from a title company or closing attorney, then transferring the property title and obtaining the deed. You will likely have to wait between one to two months before officially closing on the property, which has to do with ensuring your loan will come through. You’ll also be responsible for paying closing costs at this time, including title insurance, taxes, and lender fees. 

Conclusion 

Closing on a distressed property is a popular way for investors to buy below fair market value and make a profit. By following the steps above and taking the time to do the proper research and preparation, you can make a distressed home the newest addition to your portfolio. 

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