Researching foreclosures efficiently - Holy Grail?

13 Replies

In our county, the foreclosure amount (opening bid) for any property going up for auction is generally available after 5PM on the day before the auction.  So if the property is going up for auction on August 8th, the opening bid will be available on August 7th, after 5PM.  

The problem is that in many cases there are a lot of properties going up for auction that have a high starting bid amount (generally low or negative equity for my target market) and I have no interest in bidding on those properties but since I don't know the starting bid, I can't eliminate them from my research until the night before the auction.  Had I known the starting bid ahead of time, I would have eliminated them from my 'to research' list a long time ago.  Not to mention auctions that are cancelled or where the dates are changed but I don't think I can do a whole lot about those types of issues.  County offers a limited amount of documents for online viewing but the problem with the electronic research is that generally the information is incomplete and sometimes clearly wrong.  

So let's say all the stars are aligned and a property that I've researched ahead of time has a starting bid amount that's in my price range but then I want to have a look at the actual case before bidding so I run over to the Recorder's office to review (opens at 8:30AM) the full documentation (since I already know that the electronic search is incomplete) and then run over to the Sheriff's office for the auction which happens to start at 9AM.  So I basically have 15 minutes to scan the documentation.

So now the scary part - since the electronic search is incomplete and I barely had 15 mins to look at the actual documentation, I'm bidding on properties with limited information.  Understand that perfect access to information would be nice but not sure if that's a possibility.

Yes, I could go to the recorder's office, bite the bullet and do the research on all the properties ahead of time but have a full-time 9-5 job so can't do that either...

There has to be a better way to do this and am looking for ideas/suggestions on what others do to (a) eliminate properties with low equity from their research list and (b) have enough time to review the actual court documents before bidding on the auction while keeping a 9-5 job.


In my area we don't get to know the starting bid until the trustee starts the auction.

The public notice mentions the date and amount of the initial lien.  Using that data you can get a general idea of how much is owed to date and compare that to what the property is worth now.

Thanks Joshua.  I'll give that a shot. 

What county are the properties located in that you're bidding on?  Also, so I understand, you are currently doing all of the research yourself, correct?

Things are similar where I am; bid not known until afternoon or the night before auction. So you basically eliminate underwater properties until you know the starting bid on those; properties with equity are worth the research effort in most cases even if they are postponed; very unlikely that the property loses equity unless a disaster occurred there. 

That would let you get into play for some properties. 

I did this in Dupage county for years.  You are doing exactly what you have to do.  Lots of last minute research and cross your fingers that you found everything.  Sometimes you don't.  

It was often comical the line of cars of the regular bidders driving past the homes with the low starting bids the morning of the auction.  

You will get to the point where you don't do any research until the starting bids come out the night before.  You will find all the early research is a waste of time.

Think about it this way, no one else has the data either so they are in the dark as much as you are.  That is the big factor that keeps prices low.  If everyone had tons of time to research everything, then no deals would fall through the cracks.

Also, in the vast majority of counties you get no advance notice of starting bids, so be thankful you get 12 hours.

Florida is great, it's all online, just have to do your lien searches diligently!

@Steve Babiak  Agree.  It's a huge time waster to do research without the first bid and I've stayed up till 1-2AM in the morning researching.  These auctions are getting frothy and it seems like I'm just wasting a lot of time.  The other kicker for me is that some of these property auctions with the opening bid get cancelled or extended to a future date when you get there in the morning so all you can do is turn around and go back home.  Frustrating...

@Eric Michaels   I love your last comment about being thankful that we at least have 12 hours.  I'm counting my lucky stars.  hahaha

Glad to hear that I'm not the only one in this situation.  Would have figured this process to be a lot more streamlined but that's probably expecting too much from a local bureaucracy...

In today's auction, a buyer bid on a 200K+ property only to be told by his fellow bidder that he was bidding on a 2nd Lien. He didn't realize that it was a 2nd and asked that his bid be cancelled... Fortunately, the auctioneer complied. MLS looking better and better.

Originally posted by @Stephen D.:


In today's auction, a buyer bid on a 200K+ property only to be told by his fellow bidder that he was bidding on a 2nd Lien. He didn't realize that it was a 2nd and asked that his bid be cancelled... Fortunately, the auctioneer complied. MLS looking better and better.

The fellow bidder should have not told that winning bidder - that is how the competition eliminates itself, and he left the competition around for the next auction :)

Here in Vegas we have the title company's send us the list at about 4-5pm each day for the upcoming auction tomorrow. 

They mention all the liens for every property already, and if they will insure the property or not. 

Then its just up to us investors to do our due diligence before 9am tomorrow. 

I also like to use to track homes in my certain criteria before the daily lists so I can get a jump on what property's I want to bid after. 

@Amir Pasha Esfandiary   The title company's service sounds really convenient.  I'm guessing you have to pay some type of a subscription fee and most likely worth whatever they are charging.  Wish we had the same option here.  Will try to connect with some local services here to see if that's an option.

I haven't used any of the foreclosure services but may look at using one.  Thanks for the tip.

In my area I know some guys that pay a local teenager or family member to do the research. Teach them how to research what your looking for, pay them say $10 bucks for each property. If it's 10 property's you're looking at, they spend a few hours getting the info and your out $100.

Might be worth it to have a leg up.

Maybe bid on hud homes instead?

Also check if is your area as well. 

And yes it is convenient, but we do not pay for the service, they just ask that we use their services when we go to sell. 

Have you already developed a relationship with a title company? If not, I suggest doing so and ask them to help you as an investor grow your business. They usually provide a wide range of tools to help investors in hopes to win their repeat business. I get all my lists from my title company, I am able to ask for information on any property without a fee, and also get 30% off every transaction. 

But, I do realize every city and state is different with their own set of rules. Good Luck! 

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