By Kathleen Willcox
September 1, 2022


Are you considering buying a foreclosed home, or a home that has been repossessed by a mortgage lender? If so, you’re not alone. Purchases of foreclosed homes are up more than 150%, according to a recent 2022 U.S. foreclosure report.

Many homebuyers are tempted to buy a foreclosure because it’s seen as a way to essentially get a great home at a bargain price. But the process is more complicated than it may appear—and that seemingly cut-rate deal may not save you as much money as you anticipated.

Here’s the 411 on buying a foreclosure, what the purchase entails, and the risks you should watch out for so you don’t end up with a money pit on your hands.

How to find and buy a foreclosure

Finding a foreclosure is very similar to the process of finding any other home for sale. Many foreclosed homes appear on home listing sites such as yours truly. Or you can dig deeper.

“You can typically find foreclosures if you just Google the name of your county and your state, with the search term ‘home foreclosure,’” says Wesley Williams, owner of OC Real Estate in Louisville, KY. “Look for a .org or .gov website.”

Another other option is to call your county clerk and ask them where to find the next foreclosures coming to auction. When foreclosures are sold in an auction format they can occur in person, at a government building, or at the site of the property.

A local real estate agent can also help you find and purchase a home in foreclosure.

Found a house in foreclosure? Go check it out

It’s one thing to see a fantastic house at a bargain price online, and it’s another to see it IRL.

“The very best foreclosure advice I give to potential buyers is to immediately drive by the property and inspect the home and entire neighborhood as best you can from the street,” says Christopher Baron Hanson, a Florida-based real estate agent with Coldwell Banker.

Typically, you cannot have a foreclosed home inspected before auction if it’s being sold as is. Plus, different federal and government agencies have their own pre-inspection policies.

But if you’re serious about buying a foreclosed home, do try to inspect it before placing a bid. If that’s not possible, do your due diligence by visiting the property and researching the surrounding area and community. A real estate agent can help you with this.

“You never know—you could pull up to find a great property or the most dilapidated home in the neighborhood,” Baron Hanson says.

Watch out for cash requirements

When buying a foreclosure you typically end up getting more house for your money, but you may need to forgo a traditional mortgage to do so.

“Before going to an auction, read the rules,” says Williams. “Some will require an all-cash purchase, and often, 10% cash down is required at the sale. You’ll generally have up to 30 days to repay the rest. You’ll need to go in with a game plan, and know how you’re going to pay for a winning bid.”

And beware of bidding more than you can afford—auctions can get exciting, so make sure you go in with a solid budget that you will not exceed.

Watch out for a lengthy eviction process

Home foreclosures come with hard feelings, and the previous owners may not be ready or willing to leave.

“You may have to endure a lengthy eviction process if the former owner or tenant will not move out peacefully,” Baron Hanson warns. “Be sure you know your state’s foreclosure laws and local jurisdiction norms, and be prepared to pay for an inspection, title search, and attorney as quickly as possible.”

Watch out for potentially pricey repairs

You may well be facing down a long list of repairs when you purchase a foreclosed home. Chances are, if the owners couldn’t afford their mortgage, they might not have been able to afford basic upkeep either.

Foreclosures can also sit unoccupied, without electricity, for months.

“These homes are typically in total disrepair with little-to-no upkeep,” says Christina McCollum, Washington regional manager for Churchill Mortgage.

And you can’t bank on the lender providing disclosures about the quality of the foreclosure.

With these issues in mind, McCollum recommends getting a thorough home inspection from a licensed professional (if it’s allowed). This will allow you to assess if you’re willing to take on the risks and added repair costs. You should seek out an inspector who specializes in foreclosures and will pay special attention to the quality of the structure of the home, the roof, the suite of appliances, as well as the signs of pest and insect infestations.

Watch out for mold

One common issue that home inspectors miss in foreclosures is mold.

“Because the home has been unoccupied and in a state of questionable repair, microscopic mold growth may exist on the walls and all common surfaces within the residence,” says Mike Powell, a home inspector and mold assessor at Red Flag Home Inspection in Tampa, FL. “I like to suggest a ‘white glove’ test, where you simply swipe random surfaces. If you cannot see anything visually, but can see residue on your finger—or the spot you just swiped in the debris—it may be an indication that mold may have developed. A more thorough evaluation by a mold assessor would be warranted at this point.”