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What is a Sheriff Sale and How Does It Work?

If you live in certain states across the country, the chances of you coming across a Sheriff Sale are higher than expected.

Sheriff sales are extremely similar to normal foreclosure auctions, the only difference being that certain states around the country require that a sheriff preside over the sale. But the key elements are still in place: sales occur when a homeowner defaults on a mortgage or has trouble paying another house-related payment.

As with any normal foreclosure, when a default in payment occurs, the mortgage lender will end the homeowner's rights to the property on which they were making payments. The lender then files a law suit and proves that it has the rights to sell the property so that it can recover any loss it made on the initial loan investment.

Once that process has taken place, the home and its properties are put up for auction. This is where a Sheriff Sale comes into place, as certain states require that the Sheriff of that particular county handle the proceedings.

Advantages of a Sheriff Sale

There are a number of ways in which you can benefit from the Sheriff Sale, but the most obvious advantage lies in the high profit potential of bidding on these homes. Sheriff Sales are a great opportunity to take advantage of the difference between a home's market value and the judgment amount at an auction, meaning that you can purchase a home for almost a fraction of what it's actually worth.

The length of time between a posted sale and the actual sale date can vary between 4 weeks and 8 months, but either one should give you enough time to do the necessary research on the property and make the decision as to whether or not you'd like to place a bid on the home.

If you do have a sincere interest in the home, you won't face too much competition at the auction. Sheriff Sales are very often neglected by the general public, a truth that makes benefiting from a property foreclosure all that more obvious.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if I am the successful bidder?

Once you sign the deed to the house it becomes yours, and that is a process that should not take very long. There is a small chance that the people living on the property will not leave when they are supposed to, but they'd be squatting illegally, so you could take legal action against them quite easily.

Can I inspect the house before bidding?

No. Sheriff Sales are done on a buyer beware basis. No warranties are attached to the sale, and the sheriff presiding over the auction has no access to the property.

What is the minimum bid in a Sheriff Sale?

Minimum bids vary, but generally the mortgage company will submit the lowest bid.

Are there liens attached to the foreclosed property?

Usually there are not, but there are instances in which a lien may remain. Always check with your attorney before bidding if liens are a concern for you.

What happens if the property is sold to the mortgage holder?

It really depends on the bank or mortgage company that makes the bid.