If you have decided that you want to buy a foreclosure, the next step is to find foreclosed homes that are for sale.
But finding foreclosures can be a lot of work or cost you a lot of money.
There are certainly free methods you can use to be one of the first to know about upcoming foreclosures, such as searching county records at the courthouse or monitoring newspapers which print mandatory pre-foreclosure public notices.
You can also sign up for a website service such as RealtyTrac, but at $29/month for the basic service plan, the bill for a service like this can add up.
While these methods may be the best option for investors who want to know about foreclosures before they hit the market, they aren’t really practical or necessary for home buyers who are simply looking for a good deal on their next home. In fact, the process would likely be frustrating for most homebuyers since these methods would be focusing on homes that were months away from going up for sale on the public market.
Two 3 Free Ways to Find Foreclosures:
There are 2 free and easy methods to find local foreclosures. I’ve labeled these foreclosure searches as GOOD, BETTER and BEST based on how complete the information is and the likelihood that you will see every foreclosure that is actively listed for sale.
Google Maps (Good):
Updated 2/5/11 – Google has announced that they will no longer include real estate listings on Google Maps.
ACH Home Search (Better):
The home search that we offer on this site has a tab which allows you to see just the foreclosures that meet your criteria. Since our home search gets the home listing data as a direct feed from the MLS, you will see every home that is currently listed for sale.
Well, almost every listing. Though I don’t understand why, there are a few agents out there that opt-out and don’t allow their listings to be published on public websites. My guess is that these listing agents either don’t understand technology and how to market a home to today’s internet searching buyers, or they offer a low fee limited service listing and make the public website inclusion a feature that goes with their higher priced listing plan.
Based on local regulations set by the St. Louis Association of REALTORS, home search portals on agent and brokerage websites can only display 200 listings at a time. Our search will tell you how many properties meet your search criteria or show up in the map boundaries, but the site will only display the most expensive 200 properties of that list. To see every home, you need to either zoom in on the map until the area has only 200 properties or less in it, or you need to narrow your search criteria (such as price, floor plan or number of bedrooms).
Another regulation limits the homes available on a public home searches to ones that are currently for sale. Homes that have a firm contract on them or are no longer on the market are not shown on any public home search website which gets a feed directly from the MLS.
Why do you need to search for homes on a site that is getting it’s data directly from MLS?
Though non-MLS data generated sites such as Zillow and Trulia do offer helpful information for their visitors, they only show homes for sale if an agent or brokerage submitted the property to that site (they also get listings from other sites that they have an arrangement with to share listings). One of the bigger problems with these sites is that they have outdated information.
When I have a listing for sale, I submit it to the Keller Williams Listing Syndication (powered by ListHub) which syndicates the listing out to hundreds of sites. KWLS is connected directly to the MLS so when the price or status changes, the changes to my listings get sent back out to all of the websites.
However, many agents at other companies don’t have access to something like KWLS. They submit their listings to a service that syndicates the listing to other websites, but changes might not make it to these websites or to websites that scrape their listings from the internet. Other agents who manually add their listings to national listing sites may not be as diligent at going back to every site and pulling the listing once it is sold or updating the price.
The home search on Arch City Homes is updated daily. You never have to worry about outdated information or not hearing about a new listing.
Direct MLS Access (Best):
The best way to make sure you are seeing every foreclosure for sale, and every privately owned property too, is to get a Direct MLS Access account through an agent.
By signing up with an agent, you get access to not only the homes that are actively for sale. You also get access to homes that are under contract, sold or have been taken off the market. About half of the homes listed for sale in today’s market end up failing to sell and are taken off the market even though the owner would really prefer to sell.
These homes could be a great alternative to purchasing a foreclosure since the owners should be much more realistic on pricing after having their listing fail. They may feel that they have very few options, giving a buyer who approaches them when they are off the market a good deal. Plus, in contrast to owners of homes going through foreclosure, these sellers may be more motivated to keep the house in good condition to make sure that the sale goes through.
One of the advantages of the ACH Direct MLS Access account is that you can set the program to highlight the homes that meet all of your preferred criteria (such as bank owned/foreclosure), while still presenting you with other homes that meet your minimum criteria.
If I wasn’t an agent, I would use all of these options if I was looking for a foreclosure to purchase.
I would start with using ACH Home Search to get a feel for which areas have been hardest hit by foreclosures. It will be easier to find a foreclosure in the areas with tons of foreclosed properties, but these areas may also be more prone to price declines as foreclosures continue to put downward pressure on pricing.
Then I would contact an agent to sign up for a Direct MLS Access account so I could make sure I wasn’t missing anything that was on the market. I would set my home search criteria on the areas I liked the most so I wasn’t inundated with homes that are not good candidates for me. But, I would go back to the ACH Home Search (or another agent’s home search if I was outside St. Louis) to browse areas or homes that lack the features I said I had to have just in case that needle in a haystack home came up that made me reconsider everything I thought I needed.
If you are in the St. Louis area and would like to purchase a foreclosure or a regular market sale property, we want to talk to you! Give us a call or send us an email so we can discuss how we can help you achieve your goals.
If you are looking for property outside of St. Louis, our free referral service will help you select an agent in your area who will put your needs above everything else. We want to talk to you too!