Pre-Foreclosure: The Secret Sauce to Success

Pre-foreclosures are the secret sauce to success because they can be extremely profitable, are easy to find, and are low risk.  Pre-foreclosure begins when someone receives a NOD (notice of default) letter or in some states this is referred to as a “Lis Pendens” (legal action started) letter. There is a distinct advantage to reaching people going through foreclosure quickly before they are inundated with letters, emails and phone calls from collectors or competitors. At the time most recipients get an NOD letter, they will not yet have their property on the market.

Approximately, 60% of the people who receive a NOD letter are able to save their home by working things out with the mortgage company or supportive government entity such as HUD.gov, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

The other 40% is where the deals are. However, most of these people are in denial and many remain so until a day or two before the actual auction is to take place. Like any other kind of deal, look for owners who don’t want the property. One of the best signs of a winner is finding the home to be vacant but still in pre-foreclosure.

In most cases if they vacate the property, they are planning to let it go back to the bank. Unlike “rehab flips” it will be easier to sell the property or get a lease option if it is in good condition because you are not wholesaling but selling directly to someone who will live in the property.

Odds are good that the people who are going through pre-foreclosure are being continuously harassed by all manner of bill collectors. Hence, the type of people who have the most success knocking on the doors of people going through pre-foreclosure are women under 5’3″, slight of build, with a baby or two in tow. Men, who are tall of stature and have larger build can be intimidating and have an uphill fight to get their message across.

If the property is vacant, one or more of the neighbors may know how to reach the owners. Once, the owners are reached, the message is simple. “Thank you for your courtesy in seeing me. I’ll be brief because it is very possible I can help you immensely. Your name came up as having received an NOD or Lis Pendens letter. There are many things you should know about what that means. Are you familiar with the loopholes in the foreclosure process?”

This will give you a good chance of being able to continue the conversation. “Loopholes” has a nice ring to it. Obviously, it is important to know what those loopholes are. But, it is even more important to know how to find out if you are dealing with someone who wants or doesn’t want the home that is being foreclosed on.

The next move is, “I would be happy to share what I know about how to avoid pre-foreclosure or at least be able to buy the time necessary to resolve the situation. There is no charge now or in the future for this, I ask only one thing.” Ideally, wait for a “What’s that?” “I only ask that should you decide that you don’t want this home, you would allow me a chance to buy it from you with your approval at a very fair price. Some people call me a ‘full price offer guy.’ Would it be ok to discuss some ideas on strategy that might be helpful to you?”

“During the depression banks often foreclosed on homes where the owner was both current on payments and also had substantial equity. Obviously, this was an abusive process and fortunately the federal government has mandated some new regulations to protect homeowners like you. As a general rule, in most states including this one, the NOD/Lis Pendens letter gives the homeowner 90 days to clear up unmade payments owed to the bank with a minimum of extra legal expenses.”

“Once the 90 days is up, they must publish their intention to foreclose three weeks in a row. This can take as little as 15 days. After that, the earliest they can hold an auction is 10 days after the third printing of notice. Hence, in the worst possible case, homeowners going through pre-foreclosure will get at least 115 days from the date of the original letter.” … “At this point, it would be good to find out where you stand so I can help you develop your strategy. Could you give some kind of idea about how far behind you are money-wise to catch things up?” WHATEVER THE AMOUNT “Well the obvious question is, what is the likelihood that you can raise that money before the bank lowers the boom? Further, is it wise or more simply, do you want to keep the house?”

If they indicate that it doesn’t make sense to try to save the house, then say, “I would be happy to try to help you avoid foreclosure by making an offer on a short sale if you owe more than the house is worth, or better yet, catching up the mortgage by paying what you are behind and then putting the home in a trust where you might be able to at least get something if there is value in excess of the mortgage. This would, if possible not show up as a foreclosure against you but would show you caught up the mortgage and every payment that I make in the future would help improve your credit.”

“While I would need a copy of your mortgage, I promise to show you comps so you can get a feel for what it is worth. Further, I will make the best offer I can and you can judge for yourself the best direction for you to go. Is that fair enough?”

The market has changed a great deal since the melt down of 2007-2008. Banks are exempt from any “equity theft” laws. If the bank makes money on a foreclosed house, they keep it. Mortgage contracts contain a “due on sale” clause. This doesn’t mean the mortgage isn’t assumable, it just means the bank can call in the note upon sale. A home in pre-foreclosure is on their books as a non-performing asset. Hence, if you catch up the mortgage, it goes on their books as a performing asset.

It isn’t generally wise for the bank to call in the note unless current mortgage rates are much higher than the existing mortgage. Banks aren’t stupid! They just want the money. When purchasing a home that is behind on the mortgage, banks are usually quite willing to accept the money to catch up the mortgage. However, problems can come up later in dealing with the bank because the mortgage is in the previous owner’s name.  Previously people who bought homes subject to the existing mortgage were able to present an “authorization to release information form” and the bank would cooperate giving all the current mortgage details. Banks tend to look at this form with a purpose of paying off the mortgage and getting a new one. Hence it is seldom honored after three months to a year at the most.

Because the banks no longer honor this form after a few months, it is critical to get a “Durable Power of Attorney” authorizing you to discuss the details about the mortgage with that bank and or their assigns. This form should be for the entire term of the mortgage. Including “and or assigns” is critical if the bank turns the mortgage over to another institution.

It is also critical to get the previous owners to properly sign a Quit Claim Deed. This deed should be recorded with the county or parish once the bank has accepted the catch-up payment. Further, there may be liens or encumbrances against the property. Due diligence would be wise.

There is clear logic to putting the ownership of the home in a Land Trust. First, a trust with multiple beneficiaries has dignity in a court of law because it is clearly not one person hiding behind the entity. Beneficiaries could include the previous owner, you for services, the person who lease options the home and, of course, the agent who lists and sells the home.

Further, properly configured trusts can be exempt from the “due on sale” clause. This is another reason to make the previous owner a beneficiary. As an executor of a trust, it is easier to communicate with the bank or financial institution once you have a Durable Power of Attorney.

If you can find someone willing to pay what the mortgage is behind, for an option to purchase the property, you have a deal regardless of the amount. In the event you don’t have someone ready to buy or option a purchase, a good rule of thumb is if the arrearage of the mortgage is no more than 10% of the value of the property. Of course, the mortgage payment should be reasonable for that kind of home in that area. The logic here is that most people who want to buy a similar home in the area and go to the bank for a mortgage will have to put 10% down. There are plenty of people who can come up with 10% down but still can’t qualify for a mortgage from the bank. They will welcome this kind of opportunity.

A marketing headline that has been successful in finding option buyers is “Your Down Payment is Your Credit Approval.”

Should the homeowner indicate that they want to keep the property but acknowledge they have no way of catching up in the prescribed arrearage, you can ask them, “If you weren’t behind right now, would you be able to make your payments like you used to?” If they say yes, ask, “Have you spoken with the bank?”

Either way, if they have spoken with the bank or not, they need to be reminded that the federal government has instructed banks to try to work things out with these people if they can make the original payment. The banks can put the arrearage on the back of the loan if they want to. Helping someone in this way is a karma worthy service.

If the home is vacant or you can’t get them to open the door, you will want to try different techniques to reach them. Emails, text messages and phone calls can work great, especially in combination!

Current contact information of people who are going through pre-foreclosures and have moved can often be found at: <http://www.intellius.com> or <http://www.Spokeo.com>.  Both of these sites will often provide both landline phones and cell phones. They may even provide email addresses. Intellius costs about $19.00 per month and Spokeo starts at about $60.00 for 6 months.

Below are some critical criteria for becoming successful in doing pre-foreclosure deals.

1. Find “Don’t-Wanters.” Look for people who no longer want to own the property.

2. The money needed to catch up their mortgage is less than 10% of what the home is worth.

3. The home is move-in ready. Homeowners who buy will want this home to be move-in ready. So will tenants willing to rent.

4. The pre-foreclosure property has a marketing advantage because it comes with a built-in mortgage through the mortgage assumption.

5. Get the previous owner to deed over the property. This is critical and Quit Claim Deeds or Mortgage Assumption Deeds are often used.

6. Put ownership into an LLC or a land trust. Document that the owner going through pre-foreclosure was paid something or, if you are using a land trust, make the previous owner a beneficiary for a small amount of money. This offers protection from equity theft suits.

7. Only record the deed once all the details are worked out such as covering the arrearage on the mortgage and having a POA (Power of Attorney) enabling communication directly with the current or future assigned mortgage company.

8. Get the current owner to write, witness and notarize a Durable Power of Attorney allowing communication with the mortgage holder. This needs to be written to enable full communication with the mortgage holder and their assigns for the entire term of the mortgage.

9. Put the property in a trust so you can control receiving your profit over time. This will require help from an attorney. Do this yourself without an attorney at your own GREAT risk.

Assuming mortgages on pre-foreclosure properties can be rewarding to all concerned. The banks get to turn a non-performing asset into a performing asset. The previous owner avoids getting a foreclosure on their records. The lease option buyer can buy his or her own home when turned down by the bank.

Always remember that few people have a problem with paying out profits later, so make sure you become a beneficiary and the executor as well. A good attorney will show you how to do this. One word of warning, collecting rent from an option to purchase and not paying the mortgage could land a person in jail. Hence, it will be wise to use an escrow company to handle the finances.