Do you have to start the bid at an auction with at least the amount owed to the bank?

I was told you have to offer at least what is owed to the bank to start your bid is that true?

The amount owed on the foreclosing loan at the time the Notice of Sale was prepared is called the published bid. The foreclosing lender makes the first bid which is called the opening bid (or in some areas the drop bid). You would need to bid at least 1 penny over the banks opening bid.

How often on the whole do lenders drop the bid on TS?
How and when do you find out if the lender is going to drop the opening bid?

It will depend on the state. In some states the trustee/lender is obligated to post the opening bid in advance of the sale. In states like California there is no legal requirement that forces them to post the opening bid in advance. At we are constantly updating our system to show the opening bids when available and we provide the trustee information should you want to manually check for last minute updates on a particular property. With a subscription to you can track the banks opening bids and easily see which banks are discounting at trustee sale in your area. Although we are seeing a large percentage of the banks posting discounted opening bids it may not necessarily be discounted enough to be attractive to investors.