Bidding at Foreclosure Auction

Bidding at Foreclosure Auction

Updated over a week ago

Once you’ve identified the properties you want to bid on, you need to stay on top of any changes in status, determine your top bid and get ready to pay when you win. Before you go to the courthouse steps to participate in an auction, some preparation is required.

To be prepared to bid, you first have to know what properties will actually go up for sale on that day. Let’s say you want to find out what is going to sale next Tuesday. You can find out what is scheduled by going through the Notices of Trustee Sale in the county recorder’s office. However, that won’t always give you a complete list. A property that went to sale six months ago could have been postponed and rescheduled for next Tuesday. You won’t find that information among the Notices of Trustee Sale. You’ll only know that if you were there for the sale six months ago and made note of the new date.

If you’re looking to build a complete picture of the sale dates for properties whose sale dates have passed, you can contact the trustee to verify the status of a specific property and its sale date.

Because postponements can go on for many months, it can take a long time before you have a complete list of every property you will encounter at the sale on a given date.

An alternative to this time-consuming and frequently confusing manual process is to use ForeclosureRadar, which unlike other services, actually tracks the status of properties through the entire process, including cancellations and postponements and provides the new sale dates.


Because PropertyRadar is an application, not a list, you have a wealth of tools to streamline your preparation for an auction.

Daily auction tracking.The Daily Auction Schedule shows a list of properties scheduled for trustee sale on a given day, including the current opening bid amount.

Property tracking.Once you’ve identified a property of interest, it’s important to track the status of that property as it progresses through all the stages of the foreclosure process, including postponements and new auction dates.

Trends. The Foreclosure Trends report shows trends by location, year built, square feet, market value and other categories. With this information you can focus on the areas with the most opportunity. The report is automatically updated to show the latest information so that you can easily go back and review changes over time.

Lenders. You can focus on specific lenders with whom you have a relationship or who have a history of being aggressive on foreclosures.

Discounts. The Foreclosure Comps report provides a wealth of information, including the published bid (the amount outstanding against the property) and the opening bid (available after the auction and, in some cases, before the auction). The opening bid gives you a view into how aggressive lenders are in a given area.

Auction outcomes. ForeclosureRadar shows the results of a sale (Postponed, Cancelled, Sold to Third or Sold Back to Bank) on the same day. You can use the feature to compare winning bids to sold prices and to do paper bidding.

Paper Bidding

If you’re just breaking into auction investing, it’s a good idea to do paper bidding for a while. Just like paper trading for a newcomer to the stock market, paper bidding allows you to gain experience and set your expectations by doing everything an investor would do except actually bidding on and buying properties.

You research the properties, estimate repairs, do the financial analysis and establish your initial and top bids. Then, using ForeclosureRadar, you can compare your proposed bid against the winning bids. Months later when it’s flipped you can compare the sale price to your financial analysis, and compare the actual renovations against the repairs you projected. Paper bidding can take several months for any given property because of the timeline for the fix-and-flip strategy.

Contacting Trustees

You can quickly find trustee contact information in ForeclosureRadar on the notices. The contact information on the notice of trustee sale includes a phone number for an automated service that provides prerecorded sale information. Check the number several days before the sale to get the latest status and opening bid amount.

On the Steps

The trustee sale is typically held on the steps of the courthouse in which the property resides, but it can be held in any location open to the public. Verify the location ahead of time. You don’t want to miss the sale of the property you want because you are in the wrong place or still looking for parking.

Postponements. There are many reasons a sale can be postponed, from something as simple as a request from the homeowner for a little more time or as drastic as the homeowner declaring bankruptcy to delay the process. See CA Foreclosure Postponement Reasons in the Foreclosure 101 guide for more examples.

When a sale date is postponed, no notice is published when a new sale date is scheduled. The trustee is required to publicly announce the new sale date at the previously scheduled sale date. If you are not present at the auction, contact the trustee to learn the new date or use ForeclosureRadar to track the property and be informed automatically of the new date.

Cancellation. Foreclosure sales are cancelled for a variety of reasons, such as when the property is transferred or sold. Just because the sale is cancelled doesn’t mean that the property is no longer in default. A cancellation of the trustee sale refers only to the sale itself, not the status of the property, which may still be in default. To release the property from default, the trustee files a rescission of the notice of default. In California, the notice of trustee sale can be postponed for up to one year before a new notice must be recorded, posted and published.

So many sales, so little time. In the current market, there are more opportunities than one person can handle. One way of dealing with the volume is to refine your focus to cherry pick the best deals. See Refining Focus in the Analyzing Opportunities section for more information on how to best use your time and energy to maximize profits and reduce risk.

Another way of dealing with the volume of opportunities is to go broad rather than deep by building a team.

In an area with high foreclosure activity, it’s possible that properties of interest could show up in multiple locations, perhaps even at the same time. Armed with the detailed and up-to-date information available through ForeclosureRadar, you can deploy a team of bidders with clear instructions to cover all the locations. And with the iPhone app, you can have up-to-the-second information available to you right on the courthouse steps.

Place your bid

There are no do-overs at a foreclosure auction. You get one shot, so it’s important to have your game plan established before the bidding starts.

Qualify.Before the bidding begins, all participants must qualify. You need a valid, state-issued ID and available funds in the form of cashier’s checks or cash. Since you can’t know in advance what the wining bid will be, you might want to have multiple checks that you can combine to pay at several bid points. Some investors make the cashiers checks payable to themselves and endorse them over to the trustee if they win a bid, which can provide flexibility on what they bid on. However, trustees can require their own individual payment requirements.

Pay Attention! Don’t identify the property based on the address. Double check the loan number to make sure you bid on the right property.

Opening bid. Prior to the auction, the lender publishes a bid that is the sum of the outstanding loan balance, late payments, fees, and penalties due. At the auction the lender makes an opening bid that differs from the published bid in that it is usually discounted. The degree of discount varies. Some lenders are more aggressive than others. Knowing the opening bid helps to decide which properties to focus on. Sometimes the information is announced before the auction, sometimes not. Once the sale starts, the lender can do a low/high bid, an instruction to the auctioneer to start the bidding at the low number and then outbid buyers on behalf of the bank up to the high number.

Let someone else start the bidding, especially if you’re a new investor. If no one bids on a property you thought was a deal, you might want to reconsider. They may have information that you don’t. You’re going up against experienced bidders. They know the tricks, and aren’t above creating a bidding frenzy to drive up the price before dropping out and leaving an inexperienced investor with an inflated winning bid that dilutes their financing for the next deal. Don’t allow the pressure and excitement of the moment overwhelm your research and analysis. Approach the auction like a poker game. You’re playing the competition.

Walking away. It’s important to stay emotionally detached from the property. You’re not buying a home, you’re making an investment. If the bid goes above your top bid based on your analysis, let it go.

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