What is a Pre-Foreclosure and how can I buy one?

Zillow has a reputation for not being accurate and their “pre-foreclosures” are part of the problem. I get asked about these all the time by buyers. Homes listed as Pre-Foreclosure are not for sale. It simply means someone is behind in there mortgage payments which triggers a legal notice.

So you’re in the market for a new house, you’re on your phone browsing Zillow, and, all of the sudden, you see this brand-new listing you’ve never seen before. And in great, big letters, it says, “Pre-Foreclosure.” So you get all excited because you see the word “foreclosure,” and you click on the link, but there’s no pricing information.

So you get on your phone as quick as you can, and you call your realtor, and you say, “John, I just found this new listing on Zillow. What can you tell me about it?” And that’s when I say, ” first of all, calm down.

Zillow Pre Foreclosures Are Not For Sale
Let me repeat, Zillow pre-foreclosures are not for sale, at least not on the open market. All that that means is that the current homeowner has been served with what’s called a notice of default notifying them of the bank’s intentions to begin foreclosure proceedings, usually because of late payments, and it’s just the beginning of a process that can literally take years. And the current homeowner still has the opportunity to catch up on their payments. So do yourself a favor and save yourself some headache and some heartache, and when you see Zillow pre-foreclosures, just ignore them.

Virginia auction process
Virginia home auctions of foreclosed properties are handled by the circuit court system. Auctions take place at the county courthouse. Lenders are required to follow a judicial process, which includes publishing a Notice of Sale with the court and in local newspapers.

If you plan to bid at an auction, you need to have cash for the purchase. The highest bid at Virginia foreclosed home auctions must be confirmed by the circuit court. You usually pay 10 percent in cash or certified funds on the date of the auction, and the balance in cash or certified funds within 30 days of court confirmation.

When a property sells at foreclosure at the courthouse. Once the bank takes possession it is officially a “foreclosure”.

FYI, there is a big difference between a pre-foreclosure and a short sale.

A short sale is where the person has decided to list their home for sale and see if they can get a buyer for it. However, it does not necessarily mean that the bank has agreed to do a short sale at all and the listing price is one they will accept (the homeowner may have already done that, but they could also be hoping that if they make a reasonable offer to the bank that the bank will accept it. It also can take 2-6 months awaiting a response from the bank for short sale approval. I have seen homes go to foreclosure in the middle of a short sale transaction.

This information could be valuable for someone looking for a deal and willing to do some work, but my biggest problem with Zillow is the inaccuracy. I have followed up on a lot of these pre-foreclosure properties and they rarely ever go to foreclosure.

Zillow advertises these homes hoping you will click “request more information” and then it captures your contact information and sells it to real estate agents. It is inaccurate information that is simply a ploy to collect your contact info. I don’t think Zillow should post these properties as pre-foreclosures until the foreclosure sale has actually taken place. It is very misleading.

So if you see any pre-foreclosures on Zillow, remember the high chance of inaccuracy. Ask me or your agent about it. We can verify whether or not the information is legitimate. And whatever you do, don’t submit your contact information to Zillow unless you want to be bombarded by calls from real estate agents and spam email. Caveat emptor.

As a real estate agent experienced in multiple foreclosure sales I can help you research properties and sort problem homes from good investments.

Psssst! I wanted to let you in on a little secret. While I am a real estate agent…I am a different kind of real estate agent. I am creating a revolution in realty by combining everything you love about this area all into one place. Known around town as Mr. Williamsburg, I combine my extensive knowledge of the Williamsburg, Richmond, and Hampton Roads areas with my expertise in helping buyers and sellers navigate the ever-changing local real estate market to create a top-notch experience that checks all of your boxes.

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Your real estate journey is just that…yours. I get that it’ll be unique. It needs a marketing plan and a committed real estate professional to guide you every step of the way. To talk further, you can reach me via phone or text at 757-254-8136 or through email at [email protected].

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John Womeldorf, Mr. Williamsburg