Finding and Investing in Foreclosures?

Sign Of The Times - Foreclosurephoto © 2008 Jeff Turner | more info (via: Wylio)
It’s been about a month since I started searching for my first investment property. At present, there are about 60 real estate listings that meet my basic criteria of being a modestly priced condo or townhouse close to a college campus. That’s a lot of listings already, but I’m sure I can pick them apart because you know I want the BEST deal I can find. The question I had was whether there are any foreclosure listings out there in my area that could be a good fit for me.

So, how do you find a foreclosure listing? You can easily Google “foreclosures+your zipcode”, but you typically end up at listing services that reveal only partial information. You have to either pay to join or give out your personal information to find out more. I’m interested in neither of those things right now. It turns out though there are a couple of other methods that are free and pretty effective.

1) Use Google Maps. First, enter an address at Google maps near the area you are considering making your purchase. Then, click on the “More” tab in the top right corner of the map and click on the box for “Real Estate” in the drop-down menu. On the left side of the page, check “Foreclosure.” You can uncheck the “For Sale” box if you like, but I like knowing how saturated the market is. This is a pretty effective technique, especially if you know the neighborhood you would like to land in.

2) An alternative method to find foreclosure listings is to go to Zillow or Trulia and search the same area for homes for sale that do not show the addresses. These are the foreclosure opportunities. Then, you can typically use that data to back into old real estate listings. This is valuable data to have if you’re trying to buy a house at auction on the courthouse steps as it is in my county.

I prefer the first approach, but using both may be your best bet. I put my real estate agent on the job of doing a deeper dive on the background of the one I found. My goal is to actually find a pre-foreclosure listing and negotiate the hell out of it. I negotiated hard on my primary residence and it paid off in big ways. I intend to do the same here, but I’d like to get in before the spring market starts to heat up and before the college students get locked into rental agreements.

UPDATE 2/10/11: Google is no longer supporting it’s real estate application to search for foreclosures or for sale property through Google maps. Thus, option 2 is now the best option.

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