Going, going, gone… Tips for foreclosure auctions

With the way the housing market has been this last year, you’ve probably been seeing many advertisements for foreclosure auctions.  These are the homes that have been left unoccupied by their previous owners after a failure to keep up with the mortgage payments.  The creditor or bank is trying to auction off the property to get the most money for the home as quickly as possible.  Here are some tips and steps to follow if you’re interested in bidding on a home at an auction.

large_gavel1. Find the properties you are interested in.  You can often find information about an auction being advertised in the newspaper with links to online info and pictures.  You’ll also see advertising online.  Once you have determined interest in a property, you’ll want to drive by to see it in person.  You might also get a lot of information about the home if the owner is still around or a neighbor that lives nearby.  This could help you determine a bid later or even possibly work out a deal with the owner to keep them in the home and use it as an investment property.

2. Confirm auction information.  It’s extremely common to have auction dates change as many as one, two, or three times.  The dates and times can change last minute if the owner gets extensions.  So make sure you don’t go assuming it’s still on and hasn’t been postponed unless you confirm prior to the auction.  Most auctions take place in the county the home is located in.  It’s equally important to figure out ahead of time how the bidding works and what you need.  You’ll need your money in advance either in cash or cashier’s check.  Find out the rules of your state here.  In Illinois, the opening bid is determined by the lender and is usually the amount owed to the lender on the home.

3. Find the market value.  You definitely don’t want to go into the auction blind.  You’ll want to determine a fair market value for the home and for this, you need to do your research.  Contact your local Realtor to get recent comparable sales information.  You can also check on liens on the property through the county courthouse (these are public records).  And if you happened to meet the owner when you drove by, they can tell you how much is still owed on the home.  Tax records can also help determine when the property was last sold and for how much as well as the amount of the initial loan.  All of this paperwork is filed with the county every time a loan is taken out against it. 

4. Determine your bid.  Find out what needs to be brought to the auction in terms of money – whether it’s a percentage of the winning bid or the entire amount.  That will also help determine if you’re able to bid.  Know that a deposit that you put down is often nonrefundable if you cannot obtain the full amount by the deadline if you win.  You’ll want to know the highest you’re willing to pay because first time buyers at auctions can often get caught up in the auction process and compete in a bidding war.  If you’re worried about this happening, bring someone with you to remind you of when to stop.

5. Make your bid.  Watch other participants on a home you’re not interested in to see how it’s done.  Many investors make auctions routine and bid at several in a month so they are seasoned pros.  If you are a winning bidder, get the necessary information from the auctioneer confirming you have won.  Clarify with them about what else needs to be done prior to taking possession of the property.  Some states require the winning bidders to evict the owners themselves.  So make sure you learn everything that has to be done.

While this process can be intimidating at first, it’s also a great way to get a house at a bargain, and can be perfect for a new or seasoned investor.  Click here for more information and visit me online if you have more questions.

Spruce up your sale for fall

leavesAs August makes its way into September, we’re already preparing to say good bye to summer.  While it wasn’t around long (especially in the Chicago area), we can now prepare ourselves for shorter days and cooler weather.  Whether you still have your home on the market or are deciding to list now for the first time, I wanted to offer some tips to help you sell in the fall.

1. Make sure your exterior stays in tip-top shape.  Even though your flowers are probably gone, make sure that you are raking the leaves and they’re not scattered all over your front and back lawns.  Make sure to keep your grass mowed if it’s getting long.  The beautiful fall colors look great in photos.  Try to capture your exterior photo with a tree with some orange, red, or yellow leaves.  And don’t forget your regular summer maintenance!  Keep shrubs and trees from hanging over parts of your house by trimming and pruning as necessary.  This will be your last chance before the snow starts and it gets really cold.

2. Decorate as appropriate.  While you may want to go all out for Halloween, if you’re selling your home, now isn’t the time to be putting the fake graves on the lawn or have the skeletons hanging from every window.  Your buyers probably won’t enjoy that.  Keep it simple with a fall wreath on the door or a pumpkin centerpiece on the table. 

3. If it gets really cold, make sure you keep your house at a comfortable temperature.  If you can make it through the season without turning on your heat, that’s great to save energy.  But you want your buyers to be comfortable while they’re walking through the home.  You don’t want them to feel rushed because they’re freezing. 

4. Show off that fireplace!  In climates like ours, a fireplace is a great feature to have as the temperature cools off.  Make sure the mantel is clutter-free.  You might want to go ahead and get your chimney and fireplace inspected prior to listing your home, just to make sure nothing will come up in a home inspection.  You want that fireplace in working order for your new buyer.  And make sure your Realtor mentions the fireplace in all the marketing materials.

5. As the days get shorter, you’ll still have buyers coming to view the home during the week after work.  If you’re not home yet from work yourself, make sure to set some lights on a timer so that your home is bright when the buyers come by.  Make sure your blinds stay open and you turn on any lamps that will help brighten the room up. 

View some more great tips here.  And if you’re ready for your home to sell this fall, be sure to contact me online.

Get your move on with these tips

Whether you’re moving cross country or just down the road, if you have a lot of possessions, chances are you’re going to be hiring movers.  Here are some helpful tips to make your move as pain-free as possible, and save you money, too.


1. Ask your family and friends for recommendations.  This is a lot simpler than just picking up the phone book.  If you have somebody new that just moved into your neighborhood, ask them who they used and what they thought of the company.  If you are going through the phone book, get at least 3 estimates before hiring someone.  Equally as important, ask those companies for references.  They should be able to provide you names and numbers of past clients who used them who you will be able to contact to make sure you’re comfortable.  You can also contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to find out about any complaints.  Go to their Web site here. Also check out MovingScam to see if they have a lot of registered complaints.

2. Make sure you get in-home estimates.  If you’re worried about a quote, make sure to have the company come out to your house.  Walk them through the entire home and show them what you’ll be moving in each room.  If you’re strapped for time, this can be done online or over the phone, but the estimate will be much more realistic if you walk through the home with them.

3. Ask questions.  Do they charge extra for gas?  Do they charge by the mile?  Do they charge more if moving furniture upstairs instead of just bringing it in the front door?  These are all important factors to consider so you’re not surprised when you get the final bill.  Let the companies know that you’re getting estimates from multiple companies.  They’ll then realize they’re in competition and hopefully be more honest and upfront with their estimate.

4. Recycle!  Save money on boxes by finding your own.  Many storage companies and moving companies will sell you boxes to help you pack.  Instead, go to your local grocery or hardware store.  A lot of them just toss the boxes when they’re done.  They’ll be happy to hand them over if you ask.  Look online at Craigslist or Freecycle to see if people locally are giving away their moving boxes when they’re done with them.

5. On moving day, make sure you have the movers’ contact information and a complete inventory list.  This way you’ll be able to get a hold of them if there is a last minute problem.  You’ll also know exactly what to expect when you open all of your boxes and can call if something is missing.  Don’t panic if you can’t find what you’re looking for right away.  There’s a good chance the movers placed it somewhere else.  It could easily turn up with a simple phone call.

More tips and resources can be found here, here, and here.

Visit me online if you’re ready to list your home for sale!

Safety first – Learn how to stay safe when working with a Realtor

Because of the housing market and the economy the way it is, safety seems to be a larger concern on everyone’s mind.  Whether you’re working with a new Realtor, are selling your home, or generally want to feel safer in your home, these tips can help you out.  Realtors need to protect themselves, too.  So don’t be surprised if you are asked to show some ID.  It helps protect everyone.

Real Estate Security1. If you have a lockbox on your door, do not share the combination with anyone besides your Realtor.  Don’t give it out to neighbors, service vendors or anyone else you’re not comfortable with.  You never know if people will share the information with someone else.

2. If you’re a seller and will have showings and open houses while you’re gone, be sure to put away and lock up prescription medicine, any revealing information (credit card bills, Social Security cards, etc.), keys, mail, and private photos.  Don’t just stack it on the counter or throw it in a drawer.  Buyers tend to want to open closets, drawers, etc.

3. Always ask to see an ID of your Realtor prior to going into a home with them.  On the same note, expect that they will ask for your ID when meeting for the first time.  They want to make sure you are who you say you are, as well.

4. Take your own car for the first time when meeting with your agent.  Until you feel comfortable with this new person, you won’t feel stuck being in the same car.  Meet at the agent’s office the first time you get together.  This is a neutral ground where you can see where the agent works and even meet some of his or her coworkers.  This can be good in case the agent is out of town while you want to see a property.  Then you’ll have met the coworkers ahead of time.

5. If you’re selling a home by owner and showing it to potential buyers, always get the buyer’s information first and schedule an appointment later.  Make sure to get a name, address, and phone number.  Don’t let anyone in who has just driven by.  When they arrive, ask for ID and carry a phone with you throughout the home.  This way you’ll have it in your hand in an emergency.  Try to let a family member or neighbor know ahead of time that you’ll be showing your home at a certain time.  This way they know what’s going on.

6. Don’t discuss security system information on your home with buyers or put any information like that on an advertising flier.  It gives too much information.  Likewise, don’t talk to buyers about your work schedule, how far you are from work, or your regular routine.  This can alert people to when the home is empty.

More safety tips can be found here and here. Visit me online if you’re ready to start the home selling or buying process!