Bidders beware: foreclosure auctions can be tricky

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Dozens of foreclosed homes are sold at auction every week, some for a steal.  But bidders beware, experts say the online foreclosure process is a lot trickier than bidding on eBay!

Mike Berry, an experienced real estate broker, purchased his first foreclosure in 1984. And 300 purchases later, he knows all the ins and outs.

"This is not a simple process, you just don't buy a house that you see a picture of on a listing for $100,000 and that's it," Berry said.

Knowing how to navigate the online site keeps experienced bidders, such as Berry, from making bad investments.

"I've seen people buy the wrong property, I've seen people buy the wrong house, I've seen people buy the second mortgage, when they thought it was the first," Berry said.

Paul Krasker, a real estate lawyer, has clients who have made those costly mistakes.

One purchased a homeowner's association lien, not a home.

"They bid on a foreclosure sale and it was an HOA foreclosure sale, they never checked the docket sheet to see that neither the first nor the second lender we part of the foreclosure," Krasker said.

He was served with a foreclosure notice shortly after moving in.

"The online nature of it and the ease and the access of the internet makes it easy for people to make mistakes," Krasker said.

Online foreclosure auctions have been going on for about two and a half years in Palm Beach County.

The clerk's office says the site is set up so people have to do their own research.

Krasker has a check-list he runs down with his clients including a search of the title, tax records, liens, and outstanding HOA dues.

That's the kind of due diligence Barry goes through.

"I look at 25 homes, if I get one I'm happy. Sometimes you've gotta look at 50 to get one," Berry said.

A competitive field these days where thousands of bidders can bid from anywhere in the world.

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