The easiest part of the whole process is finding pre foreclosure homes. You can locate these on the internet through local listings (as by law they must be listed publicly) or on one of the many sites that are specifically designed to help those who are searching for homes in the foreclosure or pre foreclosure process. While it is easier to find foreclosures, one of the benefits of zoning in on a pre foreclosure is that you would probably be able to move into the house fairly quickly because not enough time has passed for the house to go into a state of disrepair.
Another advantage of purchasing a home in the default or pre foreclosure phase is that, often, the homes are actually listed by real estate agents. So, you would go through the "normal" home-buying process instead of having to deal with a possibly lengthy foreclosure hassle. In the pre foreclosure stage, you can actually take a look at the house and communicate with the home owner through the real estate agent. You do need to keep in mind that the homeowner will most likely be upset about being forced to sell his/her home. That is why buying a pre foreclosure through a real estate agent can turn into a real advantage.
Be aware of the negative aspects of buying a home in the default stage as well. Perhaps the biggest one is that you will not get a huge discount on the property as you may get in actual foreclosures. Usually the realtors handling pre foreclosures will list the homes closer to assessed value compared to those properties that are listed privately. Remember that a portion of the purchase price goes into their commission, so it's only natural that they will attempt to sell for as much as possible. Evaluate your bargaining power as well when you are discussing the deal with the agent/homeowner.
In general, pre foreclosure homes are on the inexpensive side, but you will most likely save more if you negotiate directly with the seller. Here time is on your side because homeowners that are suffering through pre foreclosure stage are under a great deal of pressure to sell before their home enters foreclosure. If their house does end up being seized by the lender, their credit rating will take a serious hit. And some homeowners may offer you an apparently too-good-to-be-true deal just to clear up their debt before they actually lost their home. The obvious disadvantage in this situation is that dealings with the upset homeowner will probably not be pleasant.
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