Cathleen purchased a foreclosed 10-acre farm in 2008.
What I Learned From Buying a Forclosure
people found Cathleen's experience helpful.
I actually remember crying when we got the call from my husband's disability lawyer. His case had finally been found in his favor, and we could start counting on that income to improve our lot in life. There were a few years of back benefits due as well, which we could expect to see within a month or so. Because we anticipated moving out to a very rural farm, we started trying to find one that we could pay cash for instead of having to get a mortgage, since our years on welfare had left our credit in rather poor condition.
We came across a 10-acre farm with two barns, a workshop, and a house that had been foreclosed. We went out to take a look at it with a friend who had good common sense to see what needed work. He pointed out a few small issues, but otherwise didn't see any serious issues with the farm, so we made an offer and negotiated down to $37,000, which we were thrilled about. We knew we'd probably have to do some updates, catch up the painting and fix some fences, but we really thought we'd have it fixed to our liking within a few short years. We had the sense to have an attorney look over the contract and make suggestions as to the phrasing of certain areas, since we wanted the farm to pass to our daughter in the future. We made sure there was title insurance and a warranty deed in place, just in case the previous owners came back to contest the foreclosure.
We really should have had a qualified home inspector instead of just counting on a friend. After the papers were signed, we went out to the house to start the moving process. The power company came out, and the service technician pointed out that the fuse block for the meter loop was missing, and he really didn't know where to get a new one. It was suggested that the people who had been foreclosed on had pulled it and thrown it away in their anger at having to leave their home. Putting in a new meter loop was our best bet. Out came another friend who, fortunately, was a licensed electrician. He helped us set up the new meter loop, connect the power to the house, and set up a breaker box for the workshop. Unfortunately, he also pointed out that we needed to have a new well pump installed before we could get water.
The next week, the well people came out. They started dropping the new pump, wiring and pipes down the well when they hit bottom at 100 feet. We knew that wells were typically much deeper, so the well technician worked around the hole for a couple hours until he was able to snag the old well pipe and draw it up. Apparently the prior owners had tried to raise the well pump on their own to salvage the heavy copper wire that ran from the pump to the surface, but they must have broken off the pipe, causing everything to fall to the bottom of the well. Though many well companies would have left or been adamant about drilling a new well, the company and its service techs worked with us to fix the problem.
Once the water was hooked up, we discovered that the supply lines to the water fixtures were almost all broken. The prior owners had left water in the pipes to break them intentionally, but the iron pipe didn't give. At least that was a relatively easy fix, replacing fairly inexpensive supply lines and shut-off valves.
All in all, these repairs cost us nearly $4,000, more than 10 percent of our purchase price. It took us a lot longer than we expected to move in and make the place livable. Had we realized all the problems we would run into, we might have rethought buying a foreclosure, would have had funds put into the escrow to take care of necessary repairs or would have held back additional savings to take care of the repairs.
As it was, we spent so much time and money fixing everything, I don't think we really saved any time or money over a mortgage on a better home. We had the security of knowing that we owned our home outright, but the insecurity of not knowing what was going to go wrong next. If I had to do it over again, I would have had a qualified home inspector take a really good look at the place, so I would know if there were any expensive or time-consuming surprises. I also would have considered what it would do to my family's relationships with each other as we went through this stressful time.