Finding rental properties for the right price is one of the most important aspects of real estate investing. The old adage is true. You make money when you buy. The price you pay for a property will dictate profits.
Foreclosed properties present buying opportunities for investors. While we’ve provided several online sources for finding foreclosure listings, most sources are seller sites, such as larger lenders and HUD. RealtyTrac offers a service that provides some advantages for the investor searching for value properties over individual seller sites.
RealtyTrac describes itself as “the leading online marketplace for foreclosure properties” and publisher of “the country’s largest, most comprehensive foreclosure database, with over 900,000 default, auction and bank-owned homes from across the country.” RealtyTrac collects and organizes foreclosure data from about 2,500 counties in the United States. The data covers more than 94 percent of U.S. households.
RealtyTrac supplies real estate market and foreclosure data to the likes of MSN Real Estate, Yahoo! Real Estate, HomeGain.com, Homes.com, Earthlink, Living Choices, and The Wall Street Journal’s Real Estate Journal. It also publishes a monthly U.S. Foreclosure Market Report, which has been featured in stories on The CBS Evening News, ABC World News, NBC Nightly News, Money, Time, FOX News, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, and The Wall Street Journal. The company also publishes a quarterly and annual recap of foreclosures, and a quarterly report that ranks the top 100 metropolitan areas by their foreclosure rates.
Advantages for the Real Estate Investor
The primary advantage of RealtyTrac for the investor is the depth and scope of foreclosure information. By drawing from numerous public and non-public sources, RealtyTrac provides information at various stages in the foreclosure process, from pre-foreclosure, through auction, to post-foreclosure bank owned properties. And the listings collect information across various sellers in a single source. More properties; better deals.
RealtyTrac also provides information to assist the investor in the evaluation process. It collects and provides property values, comparable sales, loan history, tax lien and bankruptcy records, trustee and lender information, and property details.
Searching for real estate foreclosures on RealtyTrac
The search features for RealtyTrac include criteria searching that you might expect, such as geographic searching by city and state or zip code. I generally search by zip code, which returns a list of homes for sale in the following categories:
- Pre-foreclosure listings
- Foreclosure listings
- For Sale By Owner listings
- New Home listings
- Auction listings
- Bank-owned property listings
Searching in a zip code from Virginia where I use to live found 813 properties. Here’s what the start of the search result looks like:
You can see on the far right of the screen shot that RealtyTrac allows you to view the properties on a map or get more details about a specific property. Here’s what the map view looks like:
The Downside and the Decision to Use RealtyTrac
RealtyTrac is a subscription based service, so the downside is one–cost. Fortunately, it offers a 7-day free trial so you can see what they have to offer. You can sign up for the free 7-day trial by clicking here. I’m currently signed up and using RealtyTrac, in part because Mike and I are looking to buy. Once we’ve bought, I’ll likely cancel my subscription until it’s time to buy again (which if Mike has any say in the decision, will be about 12 minutes after closing on our next property). Consider making your own evaluation during the trial period while it’s free, and come back and let us know what you think.
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