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 doesn't come without risk.
Fortunately, Clever Real Estate can help you find a top local agent so you can navigate the foreclosure market like a pro 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 to apply to 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 on.
A foreclosure auction takes place when the property has officially been foreclosed on and 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
Financing foreclosures in Georgia depends on the stage the foreclosure is in.
Generally, traditional financing is not an option at foreclosure auctions. Occasionally buyers might 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 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. Otherwise, just reach out to your lender and apply like you would for a traditional mortgage.
First-time home buyers should look into Georgia Dream loans and down payment assistance programs like Georgia PEN and Georgia Choice to get the best financing available. There are even assistance programs for specific cities like HOME Atlanta 4.0 available to first-time buyers.
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 help you navigate the additional risks, effectively negotiate with motivated sellers, and avoid missing important deadlines.
It's also 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 be the difference between you getting your dream home or not.
Most realtors only do one or two foreclosure deals a year, so finding one with experience in this market will be a HUGE advantage.
Talk to a Clever agent today to see what they can do to help you navigate the foreclosure process and find your dream home.
3. Find foreclosed homes in Georgia
If you're an inexperienced buyer, we recommend you focus on pre-foreclosures or REOs because they're more similar to traditional home buying.
Properties in these stages of foreclosure are often listed on the local MLS (e.g., Georgia MLS, mid-Georgia MLS, or Metro Atlanta), which means your agent may be able to alert you to them before they appear on popular real estate sites. You can also find these properties by filtering for foreclosures or auctions on sites like Zillow or RealtyTrac. To find government-owned foreclosures, you can search the HUD home store.
Only seriously consider auctions if you're 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, you should make an effort to see a property in person before submitting an offer. Just know that you usually won't get to, but it never hurts to ask.
While you may not have time to order an inspection, you can bring a contractor with you to get an initial sense of any major flaws with the property — and what they'll cost to fix. If your goal is to flip the house, this will be crucial for figuring out your after repair value (ARV).
» LEARN: More about how ARV works
5. Submit offers
Making an offer on a pre-foreclosure is a lot like making offers on conventional homes, except the seller is highly motivated and may be trying to close before a foreclosure deadline. Including fast close dates is probably the best way to make these offers appealing to sellers.
An REO usually has more specific rules for submitting offers. Each lender treats this a bit differently, but you'll want a letter of pre-approval, and you should always follow their instructions for submitting offers. 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, minimum bids, and occasionally buyer's premiums — which are an additional fee.
Buyers should contract the trustee running the auction to ensure they have all these details correct before submitting an offer.
6. Conduct due diligence on the property
Arguably the most important thing to do when you buy a foreclosed home in Georgia is get the property inspected and conduct a title search. Since foreclosures only exist when bills are not being paid, there is additional risk of claims against the title. Also, Georgia is a buyer beware state — meaning sellers are not required to disclose everything wrong with the property. This makes due diligence even more important.
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.
Inspections will help you avoid major issues in the property that may be hard to see with a simple walk-through.
With auctions, inspections and property viewings are generally not allowed. Your due diligence will be mostly limited to checking for a clear title, driving by the property to assess the condition of the outside and 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.
This means you'll need to get the property appraised to determine its fair market value. Lenders will generally have appraisers they work with, so you just need to contact them, schedule a visit to the property, and notify the seller.
If the appraisal comes in low, you'll need to come out of pocket for the difference. 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 on your side to guide you. If 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 discounted price you expect to get. 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 are damage to the property or title issues, though other downsides do exist.
✅ 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 situation 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 possibilities.
✅ Room to build in equity
Since many foreclosures have issues or have been neglected in some way, there's often an opportunity to build in equity by renovating or repairing the home.
For example, you might buy a foreclosure for $150,000, spend $25,000 renovating it, and it could be worth $190,000 after all the work is done — 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 goes much quicker and more smoothly than in judicial states. It also makes the process of buying a foreclosure significantly less complicated for interested buyers.
✅ No redemption period
Not having a redemption period means you can rest assured that when you buy a foreclosed home, it is 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 to be repaired. There are also occasions when 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 else'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 on, a homeowner must fail to repay a debt for which the property is acting as collateral. However, 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, you're required by federal law to honor the lease for tenants in a property if you buy a foreclosure and intend to rent it out. If you plan to live there, you still need to give them 90 days to vacate.
🚫 Historic properties
Georgia has a lot of historical 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 that you stick to pre-foreclosures and REOs if you're not a professional investor, as 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.
To do so, you'll need to be pre-approved for financing before finding a pre-foreclosure you want to buy, or you'll need non-traditional financing that processes more quickly than traditional lenders.
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 — sometimes in person, sometimes online.
These 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.
The funds must be either cash or certified funds, and they're due before the winner can receive the title. For more detailed instructions, you'll need to read the full description either in the newspaper advertisement or on listing sites like auction.com.
Some of the most popular areas for foreclosure auctions include:
Real estate owned (REO) foreclosures
If a property doesn't sell at auction, the lender or government takes possession of the property — these are called REOs.
At this point, the lender or government won't be super flexible with negotiations, because they aren't as motivated to offload the property as a distressed seller. Their main goal here 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 either in the pre-foreclosure or auction stages, it is likely there is something wrong with them. You should approach these with the expectation of having to do some work on the property.
If you're ready to tackle a real fixer-upper, HomeAdvisor can connect you with top local professionals for any home project.
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 judicial states.
There is no redemption period for Georgia foreclosures either, which means there is no risk of a previous owner reclaiming the property after you have closed 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 — this is true with properties at every stage in the foreclosure process.
Since deficiency judgments are allowed with foreclosed properties in Georgia, there is the 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 only be responsible for whatever is still owed for it. Be sure to consult the seller and lender directly if you want to explore this possibility.
Also, Georgia foreclosure buyers should keep tenant protection laws in mind. If you intend to live in the property — also called owner occupying — you need to allow any 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 tenant.
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 are up to it. Rapid growth and high delinquency rates in areas like Atlanta increases the chances of finding a good deal and getting a solid return on your investment — regardless of whether you flip it, rent it, or live there yourself.
The fact that Georgia is also a non-judicial state and has no redemption period also make the process of buying foreclosed homes much more manageable.
That said, we recommend sticking to pre-foreclosures or REOs for anyone who isn't a seasoned flipper or investor.
The ability to inspect a property and have it appraised are paramount to avoiding major pitfalls for anyone who isn't experienced with real estate, and those are usually only options in the pre-foreclosure or REO stages of foreclosure.
If you do decide to buy a foreclosure, we also recommend working with an experienced agent that can help you get the first crack at great opportunities and avoid money pits.
Consider talking to one of Clever's recommended agents to see how they can help you find your next home purchase.
Why trust us?
Clever always tries to provide the most up-to-date, accurate, and useful information available for our readers. We have done extensive research to locate and verify this information, and we have also consulted one of our top agents who has experience buying foreclosures in writing this piece.
The author, Alex Long, has been investing in residential real estate since 2016 and has bought homes in various states across the U.S. during that time.
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 in cash or certified funds.
You can find foreclosures and pre-foreclosures on sites like Foreclosure.com, RealtyTrac, and Zillow, as well as on the MLS, by searching with foreclosure filters.
Georgia foreclosure auctions are also required by law to be publicly advertised for at least four weeks in the local newspaper.
For many buyers, feeling like they're profiting from someone else's misfortune makes buying foreclosures not worth it, particularly since they may need additional work.
That said, foreclosures can result in below market sale prices and opportunities for sweat equity, so they can be worth it to patient buyers who wait for the right property to come along.
Buying pre-foreclosures or REOs in Georgia can take a similar amount of time as a conventional property (30–45 days), but they may close faster if you don't use conventional financing (e.g., cash or hard money lender). 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.