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Foreclosure Fundamentals by Rick Sharga

RISMEDIA, Dec. 26, 2008-With foreclosures continuing to rise in most areas of the country, one of the most common questions asked of real estate professionals these days is some variation of the following: “Is now a good time to buy a foreclosure?”

I get this question routinely and my short answer is simply, “check with your local real estate agent.” I say that because the most accurate answer to the question is based on local market conditions and the individual financial status of the prospective buyers-two pieces of information best determined by a good, local real estate agent. Unfortunately, however, some agents are still steering their clients away from foreclosures simply because the agents don’t understand how foreclosures work.

That’s regrettable because I believe that the coming months could represent one of the best opportunities in our lifetimes to buy or invest in real estate-specifically foreclosures. The free market metronome tends to swing to extremes before settling back into a reasonable rhythm.

What we saw over the past few years in many parts of the country was a real estate market ratcheted up to an unsustainable rate. Homes were far overvalued and overpriced, builders scrambled to meet future supply based on demand artificially inflated by speculative buyers-who relied on risky loans that were provided by lenders with risk analysis clouded by seemingly insatiable demand from investors in the secondary mortgage market.

Now, the market has moved back to the other end of the spectrum and everything is slowing to a snail’s pace: home prices in many areas are plummeting, builders are inactive and many prospective buyers and investors are sitting on the sidelines, waiting as the inventory of homes for sale balloons. That makes the market all the more attractive to fiscally sound buyers and investors because it gives them an ideal environment in which to find the best property at the best price to fit their wants and needs-they shouldn’t settle for anything less.

Foreclosures are the cream of the crop in such a real estate market because they typically represent the most motivated sellers and, therefore, give the biggest advantage to buyers. And many buyers realize that and are interested in an agent who can help them with foreclosures. That means agents who want their businesses to thrive over the next five years should learn to master the foreclosure market.

A great resource to get started is the Education Center on RealtyTrac ( , where you can find free information on the foreclosure process, summaries of state foreclosure laws, and links to more in-depth training programs.

Rick Sharga is senior vice president at RealtyTrac.

For more information, please visit