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An Insider’s View from the Courthouse Steps

by Marty Boardman on February 24, 2012 · 3 comments

foreclosure auction courthouse steps

Dusty Figgs has his head on a swivel.  It’s a job requirement.  Each morning he shuttles back and forth, from law office conference rooms to the steps of the Maricopa County courthouse.  Figgs is a professional trustee’s sale bidder for

He attends trustee’s sales (commonly referred to as foreclosure auctions) all over the Phoenix metro area.  They take place at 9a, 10a, noon, 12:30p and 2p.  These auctions don’t just take place at the courthouse (and they don’t really happen on the steps – auctioneers and bidders sit in a covered courtyard just outside the entrance to the central courts building).  Sales also go down in attorney’s offices throughout the city.

I asked Dusty to meet me at the courthouse steps yesterday because a bulk of the trustee’s sales in Maricopa County happen here.  I wanted him to describe what it’s like to be a professional bidder and explain how frightening the process can be if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Dusty Figgs checks his smartphone for opening bids

He said for starters you can expect to be bidding against 20-50 other people, most of them professional bidders.  These bidders represent individual investors, primary residence buyers, second home buyers and small to large investment firms.

Each of these buyers has a different exit strategy.  Sometimes they have no exit strategy at all.  This makes acquiring a bargain extremely difficult.

If that isn’t enough to scare you away then there’s this – as many as 4 to 5 auctioneers regularly sell off multiple properties at the same time.  Sometimes 300 houses, or more, are auctioned off each day.  So, if you’re there to bid on just one house good luck figuring out which auctioneer will be handling the sale.

There’s about an 80% chance the house you want to bid on won’t go to sale that day.  It will likely get postponed, perhaps because the owner is working on a loan modification or short sale.  And if by chance the property does go to auction the day it’s scheduled there’s only a 30% chance the opening bid will be set low enough for you to join the fun.

Did I mention you can’t see the inside of the house you want to bid on?  Or that without a title report you have no idea if you’re bidding on a first lien position loan, if there are any back taxes due, or if a homeowner’s association has put a lien on the property?

Phoenix is one of the most competitive foreclosure markets in the country.  The courthouse steps are not a place for novice real estate investors or primary home buyers.  I would argue that no public foreclosure auction, in any county or state, is.

I’ve been in the real estate business 10 years and I still hire professional representation for my auction buys.  I would advise you do the same.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jillian January 3, 2013 at 1:22 pm

I am 100% new to all of this and would welcome some specific advise. I live in a small town that is experiencing tons of growth due to an oil boom. My brother has lots of cash to invest and I am an interior designer. We have been talking about buying a property, fixing it up and renting it out. Rentals are nearly impossible to find in the area. I happen to find a house on the street we grew up that is in foreclosure and scheduled to be sold at auction. The woman who lived in the home for 30 years kept it in perfect condition. The house is listed with a trustee and the status is NTS. How do I go about finding out more information? I tried contacting the trustee and mortgage companies but both were national foreclosure type companies. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks


Brandon Turner January 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Hey Jillian, I’m not sure I can answer your question – but it is a really good question so I’d recommend posting it over in the BiggerPockets Forums for much more eyeballs on it!


Marty Boardman January 3, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Jillian, what state are you in? Since you mentioned there’s a trustee I’ll assume it’s a non-judicial state. The trustee should be able to provide you with the sale date, sale location, and whether or not there’s an opening bid. All you need is the TS number. Most national trustees have automated sales lines and/or websites. What other information are you looking for?


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