How To Find Foreclosures and Government-Seized Homes

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Finding foreclosures is easy in depressed real estate markets, but it's also possible in strong real estate markets. A foreclosed home may be more affordable than other homes in the area, but there could be financial challenges that aren't clear from the start.

You can find foreclosures through your real estate agent, websites of bank-owned properties, and government agencies. Popular home sites like Zillow will also list some foreclosed homes. If you're looking to buy a foreclosure or government-seized house, keep reading.

Key Takeaways

  • There are several ways to find foreclosures, including through your agent, websites of bank-owned properties, and government agencies.
  • Inexperienced foreclosure buyers may want to hire a real estate agent to help them navigate the process.
  • You can also try bidding for a foreclosure on the courthouse steps, but be aware that you’ll be competing with professionals.
  • Don’t assume every foreclosure is a bargain; some can be financial nightmares.

Foreclosed Homes

Many homes that were originally short sales end up as foreclosures, which eventually are deeded to a bank. Buyers may refuse to purchase a short-sale home due to some of the following situations:

  • Sellers stripped the foreclosure home's assets and/or vandalized the property
  • The bank refused to accept less than its present mortgage balance
  • There is a hassle-free purchase the buyer can pursue instead
  • The location of the home and/or neighborhood was undesirable
  • The listing was overpriced at its mortgaged amount
  • The seller did not qualify for a short sale

Where To Find Foreclosed Homes

If you're looking to buy a foreclosed home, start by searching the internet. Websites like Zillow,, HomePath by Fannie Mae, and may be good places to start. They will likely not have all of the foreclosed homes that you're looking for, so consider the other options below to find a good foreclosure for your next house.

Find Foreclosures With Real Estate Agents

Not every foreclosure is a bargain, and some can morph into unexpected nightmares. There are drawbacks to buying foreclosures. Still, some foreclosed homes are diamonds waiting to be polished. Inexperienced foreclosure buyers may want to hire a real estate agent for guidance and assistance.


Agents have direct access to tools consumers don't, such as the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which they use to share information about properties.

You also can ask your buyer's agent to search for real estate owned foreclosures, known as "REOs." If you see a listing agent's name over and over, pull up their profile and look at their listings. You will probably find a ton of foreclosures at your fingertips.

Real Estate Signs

Driving through neighborhoods where you want to buy is another great way to find foreclosures. The signs might indicate foreclosure, bank-owned properties, or bank repossession.

Call the agent whose name is on the sign, and ask about other foreclosure listings that may be coming on the market.


Agents who specialize in foreclosures sometimes wait weeks while bank management approves the list price, so you can get a jump on other buyers by asking about new foreclosures that are not yet listed. If you are working with a buyer's agent, you can ask them to obtain this information for you.

Major Bank Websites

Many banks maintain online lists of foreclosed properties, but not every bank will sell to individual buyers. Large lenders may dispose of REOs by bundling them into a package to sell at a discount to investors.

National lenders that maintain websites listing bank-owned properties include Bank of America, CitiBank, and Wells Fargo.

Government Agencies and Other Options for Finding Foreclosures

Some government agencies require you to retain the services of a real estate broker to make an offer to purchase a foreclosed home. Others will let you submit offers on your own.

Some government agencies that list foreclosures include:

Private-sector sources also are available to find foreclosure homes.

Asset Management Companies

Some lenders hire asset management companies to handle foreclosures on their behalf. Wells Fargo uses Premiere Asset ServicesKeystone Asset Management is a national agency that deals with defaults.

Auction Houses

Auction companies hold huge auctions, sometimes selling as many as 100 homes or more in a single day. While many experts agree that auction companies often get higher prices due to the auction frenzy created among bidders, sometimes you can find a gem in their inventories.

Popular auction houses include:

Internet Foreclosure Companies

Web-based foreclosure companies charge a fee for providing you with a list of foreclosure properties because it takes time, effort, and expertise to locate and assemble accurate national foreclosure lists. You may find that it's worthwhile to let companies such as and RealtyTrac search for you.

Courthouse Steps Auctions

You might also want to try your hand at bidding for a foreclosure on the courthouse steps. Beware that there will be many professional buyers there with you. The downside is that you generally are required to pay cash and buy the property sight unseen, and you could be assuming liens or judgments and could be forced to pay delinquent property taxes.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does foreclosed mean?

Foreclosure is the process that lenders use to seize a home when the owner has defaulted on their home loan. Default is typically when the borrower has missed a specific number of monthly payments. A foreclosed home has been seized by the lender, who is attempting to sell it.

What is pre-foreclosure?

Pre-foreclosure is the initial stage of the foreclosure process. Once a homeowner has missed monthly mortgage payments, lenders typically consider them to be in default. The lender then sends a notice of default, which starts the pre-foreclosure process and lets the borrower know that the lender is starting the foreclosure process. The homeowner can still work with the lender during that period to avoid foreclosure. Generally, the foreclosure process can't really begin until 120 days after you're first behind on your mortgage payments.

Updated by Hilarey Gould
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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. “What Are Real Estate Owned Properties?” 

  2. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "HUD Home Store Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Consumers and the General Public." Page 1.

  3. U.S. Department of the Treasury. "Seized Real Property Auctions: Frequently Asked Questions."

  4. "Foreclosure."

  5. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "I Can’t Make My Mortgage Payments. How Long Will It Take Before I’ll Face Foreclosure?"

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