Foreclosure sales: how do they work?

How can we find out about foreclosure sales and how do they work?

Across Wisconsin in 2008 and into 2009, sheriff sales of foreclosed homes hit record numbers. Finding these sales, often held dramatically on the front steps of the courthouse, is easy.

Legal notices are published in the county newspaper of record for six consecutive weeks prior to the sale, appearing no more than eight weeks in advance. That notice includes a description of the property, time and place of the sale and the clerk in charge.

More difficult than finding a sale is identifying when such a home is a good buy, according to attorney Brian Weber, whose practice includes working with banks on foreclosures.

“Nobody wins in a foreclosure, or very rarely,” he said, adding, “You need to do your research to make sure the property is worth what you would want or have to pay. Also learn whether there are liens like property taxes against a property that you must assume.”

Since it takes six to 12 months to complete a foreclosure sale, and that happens only after a family has had serious financial problems, the house may not be in the best repair. “Very rarely do you find a house that is fully ready to move into,” Weber said.

The actual foreclosure procedure includes breach letters, a lawsuit, public notices, judgments, newspaper publication, the foreclosure sale, confirmation of the sale in court and deed transference.

“Almost always the financial institution is the only bidder,” Weber said. “If you buy a foreclosed property at a sheriff’s auction, you have to put a minimum of 10 percent down in cash or equities the day of the sale. Confirmation comes within two weeks from a judge who approves the sale, normally only a formality. At that time, you pay the balance of your bid.”

For more information on foreclosure law, contact Brian Weber at 608-784-5678.

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