Buying at the Foreclosure Auction: Beware of Occupied Homes – A Horror Story that Could be YOU!

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Since I got into this business in 1999, my main focus has been on pre-foreclosures. As many investors that have worked in that field know that it is a highly competitive business. The TV infomercials paint a picture that is often times not accurate. TV wants new investors to believe that there are tons of these properties to be had and all you have to do is go to the auctions, bid on them and PRESTO! You have yourself a great investment property!

Is it occupied or abandoned?

When a student of mine seeks my opinion of a prospective house, set to go to the auction, my first question is always the same…. “Is it occupied or abandoned?” What difference does it make? If it is occupied, all that you need to do is evict the previous owner and on you go…Right? Not always.

In the State of Texas, the average percentage of homeowners who are in pre-foreclosure, that have abandoned their homes is 15% (+ or – 2% monthly).
Do the math on this one. If a given County has 1,000 houses posted for foreclosure in a given month, then that means that about 150 of them are abandoned. So if you buy one of those at the auction, you can get started right away since you have full access to the house with the previous owners gone. You can wholesale it, if you like. Maybe you want to rehab it and then sell it? Some look to use it as a rental. The options are all there because there is no eviction needed.

Heed Caution When Considering Occupied Foreclosure Homes

This brings me to the story I would like to share. This is what happened to one of my students, after he bought an occupied house at the auction. The student, Bill, had told me a lot about the house he ended up buying. The problem was, Bill couldn’t give me any information about the interior condition of the house because the owner (before the sale) would not talk to him or let him see the inside. All of his numbers, etc., were nothing but projections to me.

I told Bill to offer the homeowners $1,000 cash if they can be out in a week. $750 if they can move in 2 weeks and $500 if they leave in 3 weeks. Guys, keep in mind, this is TEXAS! We can legally evict someone in about 21 days. If you are in Minnesota or California, it could take more than three months.

Photo by Jepthe titled Funy womanThe homeowner refused all of his offers. I told Bill to go ahead and evict her.

Two and a half weeks later, he had won his eviction case and now only had to wait for the 5-day appeal period to expire & he expected to have her out in a week.

That is when all Hell broke loose.

Bill called me on the phone and he was frantic. He told me that the previous owner had appealed the case. That was a first for me. In all of my time in the foreclosure business, I had never heard of anyone appealing after the judge had ruled against them. It was pointless…Or so I thought. In Texas, after the judge rules in favor of the investor (or landlord), a tenant has 5 days to appeal it to the County Court…BUT…In order to do that, the tenant is required to post a cash bond. The amount is supposed to be equivalent to two months rent (or two mortgage payments), plus any court costs. In Bills case, the amount was about $3,300.

If any of you reading this don’t see the stupidity of the tenant, let me tell you why it is so unheard of for a tenant to appeal. They CAN’T WIN! No homeowner that has been lost their house to foreclosure, will win. All the appeal will do is delay when they have to move. The previous homeowner had to put up $3,300 for the right to stay in the house for a month or two longer. Once they lose at the County, the $3,300 is gone and they have to move.

The reason Bill was beside himself (in addition to the previous owner appealing) was because they DID NOT HAVE TO POST THE CASH BOND! Bill said that they had filed a “Pauper’s Affidavit” and asked me what it was. I had no idea. I asked around and no one could tell me what it was or why the owner didn’t have to post the cash bond. I finally called a Law Professor at the University of Texas and he said the following:

“Ah yes! The Pauper’s Affidavit! To put it simply, this person was supposed to post the cash bond but, the Pauper’s Affidavit allowed her to side-step it because she has the right to a fair trial. If she can’t afford the bond, then it would seem she wouldn’t get her fair trial.”

Here is the best definition I found for what a Pauper’s Affidavit is:
“A pauper’s affidavit is a sworn statement stating a person does not have sufficient funds to pay court costs for the filing of a new civil case. A judge must enter an order determining poverty.”

When the case reached the County, it was ugly but it was over fast. The County Judge was all over the previous owner. He wanted to know why she thought the outcome would be any different with the County Court? He told her that she lost her case in the JP Court and unless she could tell him one good reason for her appealing her loss, other than just to stall moving out, her quest ended right there!

And so it was over for Bill. Sort of.

Even after going through all that hassle, she refused to move and it took a Writ of Possession to finally put her out of the house. THEN…When Bill went to the house the following day, he discovered the A/C condenser had been stolen. The police found the unit…Two blocks away…In the woman’s PICKUP! Her legal problems continued from that point but, Bill finally had his house!

From the date he bought the house at the auction, until the day he gained legal possession of the property…Just under FOUR months had passed! Let me remind you that he paid cash for the house and having $100,000 sit dormant like it did for that long, really hurt his bottom line. Just to gain entry, was four months! After all that headache and financial burden, Bill came to me and asked, “Hey Jim, what could I have done differently?”

My answer was painfully simple… “Buy an abandoned house, Bill!”

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8 Comments

  1. i fully agree. my first purchase, which was actually my primary residence, was an occupied home at the foreclosure auction.

    3 months till possession, which took a police eviction. headaches.

    my main worry is that i needed insurance in order to close, so the whole time they were still living in this house, knowing they were getting evicted, on my insurance policy.

    never again.

  2. Thomas Brisbane on

    Great article on foreclosure auction nightmares. Its not always a huge moneymaker and sometimes there can be quite a lot of work and paperwork involved.

    Here’s a great article on a new real estate investment scam coming to a city near you (if it isn’t already there yet). It’s an absolute must read for anyone in real estate investing (beginner or advanced):

    http://bestbraindrain.com/2007/08/03/foreclosuresdailycom–is-it-a-real-money-making-program-or-is-it-just-another-real-estate-scam.aspx

    T. Brisbane

  3. Pingback: The Feed Bag - What If Seth Godin Was A Realtor?

  4. These kind of things happen and I think you have to figure issues like this into your strategy and know that sometimes things will go against you. It is a numbers thing. If you get enough good deals you can stand a real problem every now and again.

  5. Wayne,
    What you said is EXACTLY the trick… “If you get enough good deals you can stand a real problem every now and again.”

    New people at the auctions laugh at the seasoned pro who just bought a property that most people had pegged the figures too close to make the gamble. I try to tell those people is that some of the pro’s buy 100 houses a year. Out of those, they may lose on 25…But make out on 75. Allowing them to overcome just about any situation.

    Its the guy that pools the entire family’s piggy banks together to buy one house… And LOSES! Those are the ones that need to dig deeper than the rest to know as much as possible before bidding.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  6. -Ryan
    I can’t agree more as my first home purchase, which was also an occupied home at a foreclosure auction, was a terrible headache. At the same time I do agree that “if you get enough good deals you can stand a real problem every now again.” Good post guyz!

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