What is a foreclosed home? | Pros and cons | Stages of foreclosure | Georgia foreclosure laws | Should I buy a foreclosure? | FAQs
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If you're a buyer looking to get a good deal on a property, buying a foreclosed home in Georgia might be for you.
Georgia is one of the fastest-growing states, but Atlanta has some of the highest foreclosure rates in the country, making it an especially good place to look for foreclosed properties.
Buying foreclosures is a proven strategy for buyers to get properties for under-market prices, but it can be risky.
Fortunately, Clever Real Estate can match you with a top local agent who will help you navigate the foreclosure market and get a great deal.
What is a foreclosed home?
When a homeowner fails to pay their debt, the party who is owed money can take possession of the property. This is called foreclosure.
The term "foreclosure" is often used more generally for a property in any stage of the foreclosure process: pre-foreclosure, auction, and real estate owned (REO).
A pre-foreclosure is when a lender or the government issues notice to a homeowner that they must repay their debt or have their house foreclosed.
A foreclosure auction takes place when a property has officially been foreclosed. The lender or government tries to sell the property at an auction to recoup the money they're owed.
If a property does not successfully sell at the auction, then it becomes a bank-owned (REO) foreclosure.
How to buy a foreclosed home in Georgia
1. Get pre-approved for financing
How to finance foreclosures in Georgia depends on the stage of foreclosure.
Generally, traditional financing is not an option at foreclosure auctions. Sometimes buyers borrow the money from a family member or from a hard money lender, but usually people purchase these properties with cash.
Financing a pre-foreclosure or REO foreclosure, on the other hand, is a lot like the process with a traditional property. With pre-foreclosures specifically, make sure you're scheduling the sale before the foreclosure deadline. You can use Quicken Loans’ automated tool to access customized help with foreclosure financing.
If you want to search for financing in Georgia on your own, you can explore other options. First-time home buyers can check their eligibility with Georgia Dream loans. You can also research homebuyer assistance programs through HOME Atlanta 4.0.
2. Hire a top Georgia realtor with foreclosure expertise
Buying a foreclosed home in Georgia can be a complicated process. That's why hiring an agent with experience buying foreclosures can make all the difference — they can help you navigate the additional risks, negotiate with motivated sellers, and avoid missing important deadlines.
It's possible that your agent will have a relationship with REO departments of local lenders or other entities who deal with foreclosed homes. Having the inside track could lead you to a great deal.
If you need help finding a realtor who specializes in foreclosures, Clever will match you with an experienced local agent who can help you find the right property. You can also get cash back when you close on your Georgia property.
Requesting agent matches is a free, no-obligation process. Simply fill out the form below to get agent recommendations sent straight to your inbox!
3. Find foreclosed homes in Georgia
If you're an inexperienced buyer, we recommend finding pre-foreclosures or REOs, since the process to buy these properties is similar to traditional home buying.
To simplify the process, consider signing up for a service like Foreclosure.com. You’ll get direct access to local foreclosure listings before they hit the mass market.
Free options for finding foreclosures are also available, but finding what you need is more difficult and the information is not always as timely or accurate compared to using a paid service.
Pre-foreclosures and REOs are often listed on the local MLS (e.g., Georgia MLS, mid-Georgia MLS, or Metro Atlanta), which means your agent could alert you before the properties appear on popular real estate sites. If you need an agent with experience in foreclosure sales, Clever can quickly match you with realtors in your area. Enter your zip code here to get started.
You can find auctions by flipping to the real estate or legal notices section of your local newspapers or by searching "foreclosures" on georgiapublicnotice.com and auction.com.
Seriously consider auctions only if you are experienced in real estate, have substantial cash reserves, and are willing to take the risk of buying a home sight unseen.
4. Tour foreclosures in person
A huge benefit to buying pre-foreclosures or REOs is that you can tour the property before making an offer (this isn't usually possible with auctioned properties). If you're new to renovating and rehabbing properties, make an effort to see a property in person before submitting an offer. You might not be permitted to, but it never hurts to ask.
While you may not have time to order an inspection, you can at least bring a contractor to tour the home with you. You'll get a sense of any major flaws with the property — and what they'll cost to fix. If your goal is to flip the house, this is crucial for determining your after repair value (ARV).
» LEARN: How ARV works
5. Submit offers
Making an offer on a pre-foreclosure is a lot like making an offer on a conventional home, except the seller is highly motivated and may be trying to close before a foreclosure deadline. To make an offer appealing to this type of seller, include a fast close date.
For an REO, there are usually more specific rules to submit an offer. Each lender has a slightly different process, but you'll want a letter of pre-approval, and you should always follow the lender's instructions. A good agent can help you through this process.
Auctions have their own set of rules for submitting offers. Georgia buyers must submit bids in person or online, depending on the property being auctioned. The auction will have pre-determined bid increments, a minimum bid, and occasionally a buyer's premium (an additional fee).
Buyers should contact the trustee running the auction to ensure they have all these details before submitting an offer.
6. Conduct due diligence on the property
When you buy a foreclosed home in Georgia, get the property inspected and conduct a title search.
Georgia is a buyer beware state, meaning sellers aren't required to disclose everything wrong with the property. This makes due diligence even more important. Inspections will help you avoid major issues with the property that may be hard to see with a simple walk-through.
Since foreclosures exist only when bills aren't paid, there's additional risk of claims against the title. Conducting a title search will ensure that there are no liens against the property, so you can rest assured that the home is yours once you've closed on it.
» MORE: Learn how inspections work and what happens after
With auctions, inspections and property viewings are generally not allowed. Your due diligence is mostly limited to checking for a clear title, driving by the property to assess the condition of the outside and the neighborhood, and preparing to make an offer at the auction.
7. Get the home appraised if you plan to finance it
When financing a home, lenders want to know that they're not taking on too much risk by lending you more than the home is worth.
You'll need to get the property appraised to determine its fair market value. Lenders will generally have appraisers they work with, so you'll just need to contact one of their appraisers, schedule a visit to the property, and notify the seller.
» MORE: Find out what appraisals are and if you need one
If the appraisal comes in low, you'll need to pay for the difference out of pocket. For example, if you offer $310,000 for a mid-priced Georgia home and it appraises at $300,000, then the lender will only finance $300,000. You'll need to cover the remaining $10,000 or renegotiate the sale price.
8. Close on the purchase
With an auction, you'll need cash or certified funds (i.e., a cashier's check) to close on the property and receive the title. Funds are due in full at the time you win the property. The contract writer will accept your payment and government-issued ID and then complete a certificate of sale. The deed will then be transferred and mailed to you.
The closing process for pre-foreclosures and REOs is similar to closing on conventional homes — you go to a title company, fill out the paperwork, and pay the seller for the property.
The title company will tell you in advance what's expected from you, but it helps to have an expert guide you through the process. When you use an agent recommended by Clever, you'll have the peace of mind knowing an experienced agent has your back — and you could even get up to 0.5% cash back at closing!
Pros and cons of buying a Georgia foreclosure
The primary benefit of buying a foreclosed home in Georgia is the likely discounted price. Buyers also appreciate the increased inventory to choose from and the possibility of quickly gaining equity by renovating the property.
The major risks with foreclosures include damage to the property and title issues.
✅ Lower purchase price
The major benefit of buying a foreclosed home is the possibility of getting it for below market value. Most sellers are in a tight place financially, so savvy buyers can leverage that to negotiate lower sale prices.
✅ Increased inventory
In a growing state like Georgia, any opportunity to add homes to your search increases the chances of finding the right property. Considering foreclosures is a good way to expand your search.
✅ Room to build in equity
Since many foreclosures have issues or have been neglected in some way, you can often build equity by renovating or repairing the home.
For example, you might buy a foreclosure for $150,000 and spend $25,000 renovating it, increasing its worth to $190,000 — that's $15,000 of equity you just created!
✅ Faster buying process than some states
Since Georgia is a non-judicial state, the foreclosure process is much quicker and smoother than in judicial states. Buying a foreclosure is also significantly less complicated.
✅ No redemption period
No redemption period means you can rest assured that when you buy a foreclosed home, it's yours — assuming you ran a title check and it came back clean.
🚫 Damaged property
Many foreclosures have been vacant or neglected for an extended period, so they may have substantial damage that needs repair. Sometimes distressed sellers intentionally damage property on the way out because they're angry about being forcefully removed from their home.
🚫 Ethical concerns
Some homebuyers feel like they're taking advantage of someone's misfortune when they buy a foreclosure. In this case, the peace of mind outweighs the potential profit you could achieve by purchasing one of these homes.
🚫 Title issues
For a property to be foreclosed, a homeowner must fail to repay a debt for which the property is acting as collateral. This can apply to more than one kind of debt.
For example, a homeowner could fail to pay their taxes as well as their mortgage to their lender. In this case, both the government and the lender have a claim to the property — also known as a lien.
When buying foreclosures, always run a title check to see who has a lien on the property and to ensure the title is clean.
🚫 Inheriting tenants
Due to the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009, federal law requires you to honor the lease for tenants of a foreclosed property you buy and intend to rent out. If you plan to live there, you need to give tenants 90 days to vacate.
🚫 Historic properties
Georgia has a lot of historic homes throughout the state. While you may get a good deal on a foreclosed property, if it's in a historic area, the renovations may be more costly than you anticipated or require additional permitting.
Stages of a foreclosure in Georgia
The basic stages of foreclosure in Georgia are pre-foreclosure, auction, and REO property. We recommend sticking to pre-foreclosures and REOs if you're not a professional investor, since auctions can be risky and cash-intensive.
The pre-foreclosure process begins after a borrower has missed multiple months of payments and is issued a notice of default by their lender. Georgia is generally a non-judicial state, meaning that lenders can foreclose on properties with delinquent payments much quicker than in judicial states.
Foreclosure auctions can take place in as little as 60 days after the notice of default is issued. This relatively short time frame means you'll have to move fast if you want to buy a pre-foreclosure.
You'll need to get pre-approved for financing before finding a pre-foreclosure to buy, or you'll need non-traditional financing that processes faster than traditional loans.
Properties not sold in pre-foreclosure go to foreclosure auction. Georgia foreclosure auctions must be publicly advertised in local newspapers for at least four consecutive weeks before the auction takes place.
Auctions are held the first Tuesday of each month between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and the property is sold to the highest bidder. Depending on the auction, buyers bid in person or online.
Funds must be cash or certified funds, and they're due before the winner receives the title. For more detailed instructions, read the full description for the auction either in the newspaper advertisement or on listing sites like auction.com.
Some of the most popular areas for foreclosure auctions include:
- Fulton County (Atlanta)
- Richmond County (Augusta)
- Muscogee County (Columbus)
Real estate owned (REO) foreclosures
If a property doesn't sell at auction, the lender or government takes possession of it. These properties are called REOs.
At this point, the lender or government won't negotiate much. They're not as motivated to offload the property as a distressed seller, and their main goal is to recoup lost revenue.
That said, traditional financing is usually available for these properties, and they're generally priced at or slightly below market value.
Since REOs have failed to sell in both the pre-foreclosure and auction stages, there's likely something wrong with them. Approach these properties with the expectation that they'll require some work.
Georgia foreclosure laws for buyers
Georgia has favorable legal proceedings for buyers of foreclosures. Since most foreclosures are non-judicial — meaning the lender does not have to sue the borrower in court and have a judge rule to foreclose — the process is significantly easier and faster than in judicial states.
There's no redemption period for Georgia foreclosures either, which means there's no risk of a previous owner reclaiming the property after you close on your purchase. That said, you still need to run a title check to ensure no one else has a legitimate claim to that property, no matter what stage of foreclosure the property is in.
Since deficiency judgments are allowed with foreclosed properties in Georgia, there's a possibility that you could acquire a property for less than the current debt against it — also called a short sale. If you're buying a short sale property, you'll likely need to deal directly with the lender and get their approval.
Occasionally, lenders will allow you to assume the current loan on the property, which means you'll be responsible only for whatever is still owed. Consult the seller and lender directly if you want to explore this possibility.
Georgia foreclosure buyers should also keep tenant protection laws in mind. If you intend to live in the property — also called owner occupying — you need to allow current tenants 90 days to vacate the property. If you intend to rent out the property, you must honor the terms of the lease for the current tenants.
Should I buy a foreclosed home in Georgia?
Buyers everywhere should approach foreclosures with caution, but Georgia is a particularly good state for going that route if you choose it. Rapid growth and high delinquency rates in areas like Atlanta increase the chances of finding a good deal and getting a solid return on investment — regardless of whether you flip, rent, or occupy it.
The fact that Georgia is a non-judicial state and has no redemption period also makes the process of buying foreclosed homes much more manageable.
That said, we recommend sticking to pre-foreclosures or REOs if you're not a seasoned flipper or investor. For these stages of foreclosure, property inspections and appraisals are allowed, which helps buyers who aren't experienced with real estate to avoid major pitfalls.
If you decide to buy a foreclosure, consider working with an experienced agent who can help you get the first crack at great opportunities and avoid money pits. Talk to one of Clever's recommended agentsto see how they can help you find your next home!
Why trust us?
Clever always tries to provide the most up-to-date, accurate, and useful information available for our readers. We did extensive research to locate and verify this information, and we also consulted one of our top agents who has experience buying foreclosures.
The author, Alex Long, has been investing in residential real estate since 2016 and has bought homes in various states across the U.S.
FAQs about buying a foreclosed house in Georgia
There are three main stages to foreclosure in Georgia: pre-foreclosure, foreclosure auctions, and real estate owned (REO) foreclosures.
Buying pre-foreclosures or REOs is a lot like buying conventional homes — you find a property, make a written offer, negotiate terms and price, and then close.
Buying foreclosures at auctions requires registering with the trustee, attending the auction, bidding on a property, and paying for it with cash or certified funds.
You can find foreclosures and pre-foreclosures on Foreclosure.com and on the MLS (when you search with foreclosure filters).
You could also check your local newspaper, since the law requires Georgia foreclosure auctions to be publicly advertised in the paper for at least four weeks.
For many buyers, feeling like they're profiting from someone's misfortune makes buying foreclosures not worth it, particularly since the homes may need additional work.
That said, foreclosures can result in below market sale prices and opportunities for sweat equity. They can be worth it to patient buyers who wait for the right property.
Buying pre-foreclosures or REOs in Georgia can take as long as a conventional property (30–45 days), but the homes may close faster if you use cash or a hard money lender instead of conventional financing. REOs can take longer if the lender has a lot on their plate or difficulty scheduling a time to close.
Buying at an auction goes relatively quickly because you pay for the property right away. You can close and have the deed in a matter of days.
Georgia.gov. "Mortgage and Foreclosure Information FAQ." Accessed June 24, 2022.
Nolo.com. "Georgia Foreclosure Laws and Procedures." Accessed June 24, 2022.
Nolo.com. "Deficiency Judgments After Foreclosure in Georgia." Accessed June 24, 2022.
Federalreserve.gov. "Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure." Accessed June 24, 2022.