What Can You Do To Find And Bid For A House Listed In An Online Auction Site!

Can you bid on a house that is on auction, win the bid, and then have options to pay for your purchase without having boatloads of cash to complete the deal?  I found a foreclosed property that was set up with an auction house which allowed for that exact same strategy! And it was the type of deal I was looking for. Fitting very nicely into the requirements I set forth in this series, I am using this article to show what tools I used to do my research.

This is Part 3 in the BUDGETHOUSE RENOVATOR series that involves the search for, location of, and unique auction-style purchase of my home in the country. The series includes dealing with a foreign based auction house and escrow to help facilitate this transaction. Also, I show how I worked with a mortgage company programmed to process the “specialized” FHA 203k Program rehabilitation loans. My loan included funds to buy “and” repair my house. Part 2 talks about the basics of the 203 k program. My next article in Part 4 is entitled “My Online Real Estate Auction Adventure” will show the first steps in this adventure.

Does Using Zillow Really Help?

The Zillow online search site can be your best friend! This statement will find many real estate investors that do not agree with it, but this is my personal opinion. Why? Because Zillow is easy to use for the following reasons:

  • Friendly Online Navigator
  • Considerable amounts of One-Page info on each house
  • Tax Appraiser Values and Taxing Criteria via Links to the County Website
  • Price and Tax History
  • Recent Area Sales Comparisons
  • Zillow’s Estimated Value on the home you are viewing
  • Foreclosure info, if applicable, on each house
  • Links to Records of County Clerk Legal Documents and Filings
  • Related Area Maps showing Houses for Sale, Sold, and For-Rent
  • Direction Finder Link to Each Property

The County Website Link can be tricky for different states. Outside of Florida, you may only get partial info and have to look elsewhere or use awkward steps to reach pages for different details. My Zillow searches in other states only gave sales price data and I would have had to login to a particular county tax appraiser page to get additional info. And this info is often lacking many details or blocks you from researching into some other critical things you are looking for.

Since I live in Florida, the county websites give you the following information for each one you are looking at:

  1. The Names of Current Owners
  2. The Exterior of the House Layout
  3. Surrounding Parcel Maps with Owners Names
  4. Lot Size by Acreage
  5. House Features and Square Footage
  6. Assessment Data and Tax Millage Rates
  7. Legal Description
  8. County Clerk Transactions and Dates

I used Zillow to search for homes from central Florida around Tavares to those in the Florida Panhandle as far west as Crestview. I had already lived in Pensacola, which is farther west than these communities some years earlier. However, I did not relish the idea of living in another “city style” environment.

I eventually centered my search in the small towns of Northwest Florida because there was great opportunity to live in a rural environment there. I also wanted a home near grocery stores and a home improvement center (which I desperately needed for my intended project). Living ½ to 1 hour from shopping outlets and potential suppliers would have not worked out for me.

There were a number of homes I was interested in that were located near Defuniak Springs, Florida. I liked the on site info I obtained which showed that there was a Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Medical Centers, Restaurants, etc., close together. It was not a “tourist destination” and did not experience heavy weekend traffic in the main shopping areas (at least not yet anyways).

Other Panhandle cities and towns near the Gulf are notorious locations for seasonal tourists and traffic and can be a big problem when rush hour is figured in. So I avoided  near-the-beach locations. They were also much higher priced the closer you got and almost no “deals” could be found.

When You Find a House You Like, What Next?

I finally narrowed my focus on a foreclosure in the area that was listed as an REO (Real Estate Owned by a lender). It was held in inventory by a company headquartered in India, but with offices located in West Palm Beach and Atlanta, Georgia. Having the appearance of a ranch style house that had been vacant for a number of years, it was “clean” on the exterior. However,  pictures of the interior indicated that it was sort of a mess in various areas. The flooring, kitchen cabinets, master bedroom, baths, and unfinished rooms needed serious renovating. The square footage was 2300 and the lot size was almost 2 acres, which fit my criteria. It was outside the nearby city limits in the county of Walton, Florida, but still located inside the same postal zone.

I had researched this item on Zillow and liked the Square Footage, Lot Size, Clean Exterior, Location, Semi-Isolation, and the fact that it had a Metal Roof. The online photographs were comprehensive and gave me an excellent perspective of what all the different areas of the house looked like. So, without physically viewing the property in person (the website pictures were enough for me), I bid on it accordingly. Unfortunately, That bid failed to meet minimum auction requirements, but it was still available after the auction closed.

If you’re thinking this is a stupid way to view a house you are bidding on, maybe so, but I am used to taking calculated risks on real estate investments and this was one of them.

When there was another price drop on this “focus” house, I bid “again” before physically viewing the house in person. But, while this latest phase of the auction was still in process, my wife and I made a trek to the area for the expressed purpose of checking things out. It was the 2016 Memorial Day weekend. After looking at several other real estate prospects in the vicinity, we finally concentrated our efforts on this one property. This time out, I was hoping to get inside for a detailed inspection. I also planned on making a thorough analysis of the current condition of the metal roof, floor joists, and outside walls.

Before leaving for our sojourn, I sent an email to our “chosen” real estate agent to give him a heads up about our arrival. I was hoping he could obtain access to the interior after making necessary arrangements with the listing realtor (and the auction house). I did this because I could only gain access through a licensed realtor who would be the one allowed to have an entry code for the lock-box. Unfortunately, my contact efforts failed because he was out of town for the weekend.

So I blew that opportunity by waiting too long to make proper arrangements for access. Anyhow, we still were able to view the house in person. It was locked up, as I expected, but I was hoping it wasn’t since I also knew a lot of foreclosures are not properly secured. For this particular house, it had a coded and locked deadbolt system installed in the front door. Bummer! So, what now?

How I Sized Up The House Without Getting Inside For That Needed Bit Of Discovery!

The house had a good number of windows which allowed me to get a good visual feel for the interior. I did have a handheld laser measuring device that I used and pointed the beam through the windows at an opposing wall. This maneuver helped me figure out the size of each room. I then “guesstimated” the overall layout of the floor plan and came up with a fairly accurate assumption which I then sketched on paper.

Following this, I crawled under the house so that I could visualize the plumbing layout for the bathrooms. I wanted to know where the commode, vanities, and tub (or shower) were located. This was a necessary procedure because the guest bath had no window and the master bath portal was frosted.

In the kitchen area, I could see that the cabinets were makeshift and were not worth keeping. The back porch was visible through the window in the rear entry door, and I noticed that drywall was  missing from the walls. Thin, poorly installed plywood covered the entire master bedroom walls and ceiling, so I realized immediately that it had to be removed and replaced with a proper covering. Flooring throughout consisted of ugly 1 foot square tiles that were coming loose. I spotted a fireplace in the living room, but no chimney or vent pipe was visible on the roof.

On the plus side, the metal roof was in good shape and had only a few pieces missing. There were some pieces of skirting that protected the rear crawl space not in place, so I was also able to assess the condition of the floor joists which appeared favorable. The exterior walls were covered with a clean-looking stucco texture that had no cracks or defects in the walls, so that was another good sign.

The house was acceptable to both of us and was definitely the one we hoped would become our own. So, we set the wheels in motion for the intense pursuit of this “Diamond In The Rough”. As we move forward with this endeavor, the next few steps in this process will surprise you by the way they played out. My next article in Part 4 is entitled “My Online Real Estate Auction Adventure“. It will reveal a real eye opener in the realm of auctions and what you can do with them and achieve success.

I am requesting that my readers click on the links provided and download a sample read of each book and give a review on Amazon. You will have free access to the first four chapters of each book. My hope is that you will like the story lines enough to obtain either an eBook version or a paperback copy that you can put on your bookshelf as a masterpiece when you are done. FATE STALKS A HERO I: RESURGENCE, FATE STALKS A HERO II:THE FIJI FULCRUM, and THE SAGA OF HERACLES PENOIT. I will be giving excerpts on these works in upcoming blogs to familiarize you the reader with exciting details about the contents of each one. Thank you!


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