Sheriff Sale - Buying Before It Goes to Sale

5 Replies

Hey all, I've been asking a lot of questions because as I expand my real estate investing I am encountering more and more situations I don't have experience in.

I found a property that is listed on Sheriff Sale for this coming September auction. I have spoken to the homeowner who told me they will do whatever it takes to avoid the pending sale next month. I am interested in the house and asked the owner what they'd be willing to take. The owners told me that they would be happy if someone paid off the outstanding debt + $3k. The $3k is because the debt alone is so cheap compared to other properties being sold they feel they'd like to take that money to get a start somewhere else (deposit or what not). 

My questions are the following:

- How can I confirm the debt amount that is owed?
- How do I go about getting this under contract with the above provisions if the debt is reasonable?
- How do I ensure that the homeowners will be out of the house by September?
- How do I ensure that they take all over their belongings?


You've asked for a course in how to buy properties prior to foreclosure sale.

Start by knowing how to set up the basic analysis. I use PETIO:






You can determine property ARV (after repaired value) by looking at recent comparable sales. Deduct guesstimated repair costs to get a rough idea.

Ask to see a recent statement from the mortgage lender or servicer. The lis pendants should have some basic info as the loan after time of starting foreclosure. 

The borrower is entitled to obtain both a request for reinstatement as well as a demand for payoff statement that will provide you the information that you wish to make your basic determination if this is a deal worth pursuing further.


I appreciate your response. I am not worried about the mortgage debt so much. I am more worried about the real estate back taxes, IRS back taxes, unpaid utility bills, alimony/child support unpaid, and also the mortgage.

Should I run a title search? Is there a cheap way for me to run a title search without paying too hefty of a fee?

Title Search is probably the best option. I usually ask different title agents when at the local REIA on how much they charge and they're in the $75 range. It's very time consuming if you do all the dirty work searching public records

Write up a contract for the agreed upon amount and take it to a title company and start escrow.  Or maybe an attorney, if that's who does this in your area.  A title search and issuing a title insurance commitment is part of the process.  That will turf up anything along the lines you're worried about.  And get a firm payoff from the lender.  That may be higher than you think if there are a bunch of fees and charges already tacked on.

Use the county prothonotary to look up liens (other than mortgages) and judgments; the judgment for the mortgage foreclosure will appear here with an amount for the judgment that will be in the ballpark if the judgment is only a few months old but an older judgment will accrue more. The recorder of deeds or register of deeds will be where you research the mortgages, but that won't get you the payoff amount since it only shows original loan amount. IRS liens should be found at the prothonotary, as well as PA Dept of Revenue liens. 

The title search would look at those data sources. 

Utility certifications are done at closing, the title company should order those to pro-rate utility bills. Same goes for property taxes with tax certifications. The title company would order a payoff statement from the lender. 

Once you have the property under agreement to purchase for more than the bank is owed, you can usually give a copy of the contract to the bank's foreclosure attorney to postpone the sheriff sale and get a little more time to close; sometimes they won't postpone and you then know that you have to do a rushed closing. 

You don't close unless the seller has moved and left the property vacant of all personal possessions. You can write that into the agreement. You inspect prior to closing to confirm. 

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