Oahu Foreclosure Resources

Foreclosures were perhaps the biggest story in local real estate this year, and, unfortunately, they’ll continue to be a large part of the housing landscape in 2011. I know a lot of house hunters are curious about buying REO (bank-owned) properties but aren’t sure where to start. If you’re a serious buyer, you’re likely already working with an experienced realtor, so this column is not for you. But if you’re just starting out and casually exploring the REO market (don’t even think about public auctions—those are not for novices), there are a couple of handy websites I recommend checking out.

I don’t believe in paying for listings, which is why I like Prudential Locations’ free foreclosures listings (all you have to do is register). Of course, you can always peruse the Multiple Listing Service for properties, though you’ll have to sift through a lot of listings to find them. The language of REO listings can be confusing, and I’ll be talking some more about that next week.

RealtyTrac touts itself as the largest online database of foreclosure listings, and does supply a wealth of listings and helpful market data. However, you have to pay for a monthly membership.

Fannie Mae’s website shows its REO listings on an area map and most listings have photos. You can see how long it’s been on the market, if it’s still under the First Look Initiative (only offers from owner-occupants will be considered for a certain period of time, usually 12 to 15 days after the property is first listed) and if any incentives are being offered. It also has an incredibly helpful resource section, with how-to podcasts, financing FAQs and a glossary of terms.

In general, I find Fannie Mae’s site to be more helpful than Freddie Mac’s, which provides far less information about its properties. You might have more luck with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) site. A few other foreclosure-listing sites worth perusing are Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

If you’re still serious about potentially buying an REO or short sale property, and you’ve perused the listings and have a solid understanding of the process, I highly recommend you find a realtor with experience in buying and selling these specific types of properties. Not all agents are familiar with the ins and outs of the process, so it’s crucial to find a broker with a proven track record in closing these types of deals. And be sure to take your time. Most of the horror stories I hear about deals going south involve buyers who rushed into the process without knowing the details (and they were working with an inexperienced broker).