How to Purchase a Foreclosure on the Courthouse Steps

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public noticeEver wonder what the foreclosure process is really like on the courthouse steps? Check it out some time.

Properties are auctioned at the courthouse steps of the county where they are located on the first Tuesday of every month. These properties must be advertised in the legal newspaper of that county once a week for the four consecutive weeks prior to the auction. This gives you a little time to try to find out more about the property.

Preparation

If you’re thinking of purchasing a property at the courthouse steps, it’s very important that you do your Due Diligence. Unfortunately, inspecting the property is almost always impossible, as the current owner isn’t going to open their doors for interested parties to come inside! There is always the risk that the property could have structural problems or other problems that could be expensive to remedy.

However, you can and should order a title report to determine any liens that are on the property because when you purchase a property at the courthouse steps you get everything that comes with it (such as liens, an additional mortgage, past due taxes, etc.).  In addition, a survey would determine the lot lines and if there are any easements or encroachments on the property. 

Auction Day

On the sale date the lender’s attorney conducts a public sale some time between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The attorney reads the legal notice and announces that he is ready to receive cash bids (“cries the bid”). In some cases there is competitive bidding between unrelated third parties. In other cases there is no bidding at all, and the lender becomes the successful bidder. Normally the lender’s bid includes the total investment, which is principal, interest and all other foreclosures costs (legal fees, advertising fees, and Ga. Transfer Tax).

The foreclosure attorney will only accept cash, so the potential bidders are walking around with pockets full of certified funds. Unlike some states, Georgia does not have a redemption period allowing the borrower to redeem the property after the foreclosure sale takes place. 

Just like any other investment, buying a property at the courthouse steps offers the greatest potential return on investment; however, it also holds the highest risk to the investor, due to the limited means of investigating as mentioned above. The phrase “let the buyer beware” certainly applies to those purchasing at the courthouse steps!

I’d love to hear stories (successful or otherwise) from readers who have purchased a home from the courthouse steps. Be sure to leave me a comment with your story.

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16 Responses to “How to Purchase a Foreclosure on the Courthouse Steps”

  1. Arthur Harris Says:

    Great post Ann, I stay away from auctions because of the high risks involved.

  2. Steve Adkins Says:

    After working as a REO listing agent for one of the “Big Four” national banks, I have gained a little insite into their process of foreclosure sales at the courthouse. Seldom will a “decision” maker attend the sale, usually only a company attorney or asset/property manager, so agreeing to any terms other then the full value at that time is just not going to happen. Later, after new appraisals, BPO’s and inspections, an actually sales price is set. Usually much lower then what it foreclosed at.

    One of my asset managers told me a few months back that she was asked by the bank to handle the sale at foreclosure to a new buyer, she swore that she will never do that again as it involved a lot more work then she expected and had time for.

    Usually a much better deal can be made once the property goes on the market then at the Courthouse sale. And with foreclosures still at record levels, the bank’s “agent” at the sale may not have time to even talk to someone wanting to place an offer. Unless you know ahead of time who that Agent at the sale is, you may spend all morning listening to the wrong person.

    • ann bone Says:

      Excellent insight. Sometimes it’s best to let the bank buy back their own house for the outstanding balance, plus attorney and other fees. When they place the property on the market, it may be priced much more realistically.

  3. Sandi Rdorick Says:

    The Conyers office used one of their sales meetings as a field trip to the Fulton County courthiuse to view the sales firsthand. Before leaving for Fulton County. Mr. Raymer, managing attorney for Metro Title Trust, spoke to the group about what would be happening. Mr. Raymer was very informative, interesting and even humorous. The field trip was icing on the cake. Everyone was reminded that there are no easy fixes and no matter what the case it’s buyer beware so do your homework to the full extent you can!

  4. Donna Robinson Says:

    Great Information! I always enjoy your Blogs! Thanks, Donna

  5. BeinSon Bracey Says:

    Great post Ann! Steve appreciate your insight, I was planning to purchase a foreclosed home in the very near future and now I have some more knowledge about the process and what to expect! Keep up the great work all of you!!!

  6. Donna Ratcliff Says:

    I certainly agree ( in this market ) that it is better to purchase after it is listed; we have some 1/2 of what the courthouse sale were offering.

    I’ve seen lots with tax leins and other situations where the title wasn’t clear due to the death of a parent , etc. Inexperienced purchasers must certainly be aware.

    Good topic Ann……thanks

  7. margaret Kees Says:

    I have purchased properties off of the steps since 2003. I highly recommend a title search and that the agents get familiar with the record rooms because items may get recorded on a property after a title report is done.

    Also strongly recomended is that someone interested in doing this to actually play a Monopoly Game version and follow a few properties from beginning to end – actually drive to the properties and at least look at them from the curb, check title, etc., know what the property is worth and if the house makes it to the steps listen to what happens when it’s cried. This is not for the faint of heart!

  8. Ahmed Hussein Says:

    I always had questions on how you purchase on the court house steps. My biggest question of all is how you know what amount to bring in certified funds. If the bid amount is over, is there a way for reimbursement? For shortages, can you bring the rest of the funds later in the day?

  9. margaret Kees Says:

    You have to bring all the funds with you. If you have more than what is needed, then the firm handling the property will send you a refund often within a week (or so). What is typically done is that the investor brings a larger check and one or more smaller checks. Example – $100,000 and a $20,000. If you do not have all the funds the property will be immediately recried. Many of the firms will post the opening bid for a property on their websites so you know what they will be crying it for in the beginning.

  10. Dennis Doll Says:

    Thanks Ann! I wish more people would take the time to read and understand this information.
    Attending a sale on the courthouse steps is like going to a zoo during feeding time…a lot of hungry buyers looking to get the “meal” of the century. Yet, only a few savvy people there know and understand the process.
    My advice is to educate yourself to be sure you know what you are doing.

  11. Shelia Woodall Says:

    I concur! I tried to assist a buyer in purchasing a home on the court house steps only to find out there was a second mortgage on the property the seller (whom we had been in contact with on a regular basis) did not inform us of. It is definitely best to wait until it goes into foreclosure to have less hassle and most likely better deal! I would say the courthouse steps process is more for an investor, not your typical buyer. Great topic Ann.

  12. Suzanne Metro Says:

    Thank you for unveiling the urban myth! It’s such a difficult process to explain to a buyer and they always think that they will get a deal at the courthouse steps. I certainly would never leave my area of expertise to help a buyer this way… I agree to wait until the bank has processed the property as an REO. Excellent read! Thank you for posting this!

  13. MEETA MODI Says:

    Buying a home at courthouse steps sometimes is more fruitful than buying after it is foreclosed. Even when it goes in REO situation, if it one of the best deals then it will go in bidding process- the so called “highest & best offer”. So if a buyer is smart, very well prepared, all due diligence done & follows the rule “Buyer Beware” ; then he can definitely get a great deal at the courthouse steps.

  14. Stop Foreclosure today Says:

    Love your blog I’m going to subscribe hope you give more updates.

  15. Genna Everson Says:

    Thank you for this valuable information. I appreciate it and will be checking back often for updates !

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