% of houses vacant and % of errors on title

Two questions. 1. After my last resale, I’ve been looking for another property at auction and I would prefer to deal with a vacant house. I understand I may have to deal with a smaller profit margin, but are there even possible deals like this anymore? On all the possible deals I’ve found, I see that they are obviously occupied when I drive by. I was thinking that the market may be changing from having vacant houses (people advising occupants to hold out for cash4keys, stay longer, etc.) and I have no choice but to buy one occupied. What do you think?

  1. It seems agreed upon that title research, whether done through foreclosure radar and/or a title company can be very accurate. But are there any estimates on what are the chances of an error being made? It seems going to the county recorders office is not a very time-effective strategy, at least in my market, and even if you do, there is still a chance an error is made. One of the staff at the county recorder said that any item that is recorded can take an average of about two weeks to show up in their system. Is there another method that makes it possible to see whether an IRS lien was recently recorded? Sorry about my #2 turning into two questions.

Hi Alan,
Although many auction investors would prefer buying vacant properties they are also buying occupied properties as well. I believe that the cash for keys incentive is one of the reasons as well as the fact that many attempt to negotiate a modification or short sale throughout the foreclosure process which until recently required them to occupy the property. We have heard of many auction investors that will reach out to the occupant to see if they can determine if they are the owner or a renter and what their intentions are in terms of vacating the property. This can be a very delicate conversation and you may encounter the saddest story of your life or the angriest person you have ever talked to. There are some investors that are so good at this that the owner will give them a tour of the property. If you do not have these skills you may want to hire someone that does.
In terms of title research there are no guarantees. The amount of research that you do depends on your tolerance for risk. I always tell people that if no one ever made a mistake and everyone always told the truth there would be no reason for title insurance. We all know that will never happen.
We have just recently introduced some new features in ForeclosureRadar to make it easier to research title and review document images. We also provide the links to the county recorders site when they have an online grantor/grantee index search.
It is true that document images can take several days to film and make available. Once you really dig into how to do a title search it makes you appreciate your title insurance company and the owners policy even more.
I believe there are services that you can sign up for that allow you to search for IRS liens. I believe all services will have the same issues with the delays in the filming of the documents since everyone is abstracting from the county recorders information.

Hi Michelle,
Thanks for your reply. So would you have any idea of what % are vacant in Southern California? I guess there are just less vacant properties so I will have to switch to occupied ones if I can’t find any deals that are vacant soon. I’ve had mixed results with speaking with them, it’s harder to do when you have a few different properties of interest.
Sometimes it seems easy to find out whether it’s a 1st by just seeing the trustee sale information and seeing the date of loan being foreclosed. But sometimes it’s tricky figuring out what position it is in as well as other possible liens that can hurt the property. Would you happen to know the name of any of these services for IRS liens?

Hi Alan, We do not track vacant properties so I have no idea what percentage would be vacant. I have also seen homeowners move out of properties and move back in because of all of the delays and postponements. We are truly in unprecedented times. One of my close personal friends has not made a payment since 2008 and they are still in their home. Last month the sale was once again postponed. If you google lookup irs liens or federal tax lien search you will see several services that allow you to search this information for a fee.

Hi Michelle,
Okay. Just was wondering any feedback from any investors in their dealings as to the % vacant. Yeah, crazy times, I heard a story about both the tenant and the homeowner asking an investor about cash for keys. Okay, I will search that, just was wondering if you had a credible source for that so I can try to avoid the inneffective or overpriced ones.