Keep Your Money in Your Pocket; Buy Foreclosures Smartly.
Many sites out there offering this membership or that service actually offer nothing of value, and just a way to cajole money out of you. Take pre-foreclosure websites for instance. You pay $35-$50 bucks a month, so you can browse pre-foreclosures. This is of absolutely no use to you at all if you're trying to get a deal or find investment property. I'm a professional Dayton Metro Area Ohio Realtor, and comfortable with being both a buyer's and seller's agent, and work with a lot of investors, and have listed and sold many a home and I'm certainly no stranger to foreclosures.
Let me explain how to save money, get a great deal and feel smarter about it all in the process. After all, it's what I do. It's important to understand a few basic things about foreclosures and short sales.
First of all, once a property is defaulted on it goes bank to the bank. Or if the previous owner's loan was FHA insured, it will become a HUD property. There are many ways that pre-foreclosure websites get wind of this, however, it's generally quite a while until the property actually goes live for sale on the market. Many have tried to approach a bank after obtaining information from a pre-foreclosure website thinking they can make an offer and get a steal of a deal. That just doesn't happen. Banks work directly with REO (bank owned property) departments of Real Estate Brokerages, who then assist with fair market value (though banks often don't listen) and when you see an actual real estate for sale sign in the yard it may then be purchased. Bank Asset Managers are not going to talk to you about making a deal beforehand, and then you will need a buyers agent.
The Difference Between Short Sales and Pre-Foreclosures.
Understand, they want to market it, get offers and collect all they can like with any seller. No back door deals can be made here. Now, do understand, a "pre-foreclosure" can also be referencing a short sale. This is a case where the owner is simply upside down, owes more than the home is worth, and enlisted the help of a Realtor who is a short sale specialist. The home is still going to go on the market, the bank will still collect offers, sometimes many and then pick which seems best to them without announcing the fact. At other times they will put out the call for "highest and best" in which case now you have a bidding war with one last chance to guess if you're making the highest offer.
The point is, you are completely wasting your money on such sites. As a professional Ohio Realtor, I can tell you that working with a buyers' agent doesn't cost a buyer a thing. All fees are paid for by the seller, and in most cases the commission is split between the buyers' agent and the listing agent. There is "additional commission" with some brokerages but smart buyers' agents bill that to the seller in the contract or even pay it as a closing gift.
How to get an Accurate List of Homes for Sale (Including Foreclosures).
A professional buyers' agent has access to the most accurate data base of all, the local MLS. Not open to the public, agents that list face harsh penalties for being inaccurate or untimely including large monetary fees, so, it's kept very up to date. If you work with a great buyers's agent (like me), they can send you listings matching your described search criteria, and you get notified email the same day new matching properties hit the market and a very distinct advantage. Another benefit is that a buyer's agent job is both legally and ethically to protect your best interests, financially and otherwise.
Avoid those silly sites asking you to pay for a membership, just choose a competent buyers' agent and describe your investment goals or dream homes, let the properties come to you. Again, buyer agent's services are free to buyers, and after all, you are entitled to professional representation.