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Pitfalls of Buying a Foreclosure Property

Posted by Joe Samson on Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 at 11:36am.

Why is that you just don’t see the same deals among foreclosure properties as on TV?

Well, for starters it’s because it’s TV and because the foreclosure examples that you’re seeing as huge opportunities are usually based in the US.

The Real Estate Act in Alberta is 100% different than south of the border and the system is designed to prevent anyone of making a substantial profit at the cost of someone else.

Phase number one of the foreclosure process is called the “Preforeclosure” or the redemption period which could last around 6 months. During this time, the Court of Queen’s Bench provides the homeowner a chance to make up their arrears and bring their bills into balance. If they are able to this, they can keep their house.

If the homeowner is still in default and assuming that there is sufficient equity in the property, a Judge can trigger a sale and could list the property with a Realtor.

At this point the property is still in the hands of the Courts, and the legislation dictates that the property to be liquidated at an appraised value. Which means, that you are going to be buying it for what it’s worth today!

If it turns out that there isn’t enough equity in the property then the Judge may not even bother putting the property up for sale, they just forfeit the property directly to the bank and then the bank becomes the new owner.

In the next phase (most commonly found) the bank is also going to make an attempt at recovering some of their assets by hiring a Realtor to sell their property. If this attempt proves to be unsuccessful, then the final step is to hand the property over to CMHC to sell.

As you can see, it could take several years by the time a foreclosed property finds its new owner. In every step of the way, an official appraisal report has to be created and based on the report, the property is being marketed.

Due to the strict guidelines, I hardly every see a property that is a “steal of a deal”. But I guess, it could just be a matter of perspective.

In addition, almost without any exception, all institutions will ask the buyer to give up a lot of control inside the purchase agreement. You can pretty much expect to delete 25% of the standard purchase agreement (parts that normally protect the buyer to guarantee a fair transaction).

If you are thinking of buying a foreclosed property, make sure that you are dealing with a REALTOR® that is competent in his field and provides you with proper advise.

The Risks of Buying a Foreclosure Property

foreclosure_calgary_687So far,  I have shared with you a general overview of  how a property exchanges hands all the way from a defaulted owner to the courts, then to the banks and finally into the hands of a new owner.

Many buyers are surprised to find out that purchasing a foreclosure property involves great risks associated that they may not encounter in a regular resale transactions and the normal rules of engagement do not apply.

It often happens that buyers are competing to purchase the same property and as the natural evolution of any market, usually the strongest bidder walks away as the winner. In a “bidding war” where a foreclose property is involved, all of the details of any offer received may be shared by the lawyers with the competing parties and it shall become public information.

An even greater concern or risk is the modification to the standard Real Estate Purchase Agreement by the courts or the bank’s lawyer.

In most cases, a Schedule “A” will be added to the purchase agreement to amend many standard provisions and to wipe out most warranties that are in place in the standard real estate agreement to protect the buyer’s interests in the transaction.

By clicking on this link here, you can download a copy of a PDF sample of alterations of terms that a bank’s lawyer had modified in a previous transaction that I have participated in.

Some of the  most important parts of the contract are often scratched out:

  • Transfer of ownership of any appliances is not warranted nor is their working order.
  • Compliance of a Real Property Report where any concerns related to a building or property line would be identified.
  • Vacant possession of the property will not be guaranteed by the seller. Sometimes they have to evict residents and the bank will not guarantee when it will be completed.
  • There is zero responsibility accepted by the seller for any damages to the property between the time when an offer had been accepted and the keys are turned over to the new owner.
  • GST implications may take place if major renovation is required. It’s up to the buyer to verify if it applies.
  • Condominium transactions usually involve reviews of detailed financial reports and many other documents to evaluate the financial and structural state of the complex. None of these documents will be provided to the buyer for review.
  • Often there is no opportunity for the buyer to ask for any conditions to be attached to the purchase agreement and they may need to take a leap of faith by making a few major assumptions. For example: financing and property inspection.
  • This is something that really blows my mind, but they even cross out section 2.2 of the purchase agreement that states the “The Seller is going to act cooperatively, reasonably, and in good faith”.

As you can tell from the examples above, there is no shortage of risks involved with buying a foreclosure property in Calgary. However there could be some real hidden gems in the pile, but you need to feel comfortable with navigating through a minefield of potential problems. While most foreclosure deals close without a glitch, occasionally they do become a buyer’s worst nightmare.

My caveat to you is that if you are interested in getting your feet wet in the foreclosure market, then you should first consult with a real estate lawyer to get a better understanding of any implications involved with the purchase.

Calgary, AB Real Estate Blog


I am a licensed member of the Real Estate Council of Alberta since 2005 - proudly representing CIR REALTY, Calgary’s largest real estate brokerage. I enjoy keeping my readers up to date with real estate related information that they can easily understand and use for their own benefit. I welcome feedbacks and comments equally from first-time visitors to my blog, past clients and also from my fellow REALTOR® colleagues. Thanks for stopping by!

5 Responses to "Pitfalls of Buying a Foreclosure Property"

Faye Rose wrote: Thank you for extending your effort to discuss the Foreclosure phases for us. Your advise that we need to make sure that you are dealing with a Realtor that is competent.

Posted on Monday, May 14th, 2012 at 10:09pm.

Bill wrote: Great advice Joe, it's amazing to me how many people trying to get into the market believe they will get a deal by buying a foreclosure.
Instead they walk into a money pit for the same price they could have found a great home.
Bill Biko

Posted on Thursday, May 24th, 2012 at 10:06am.

Ethan Hunt wrote: Real estate market is a very profitable one. The main aim is to get profit with customer satisfaction. Foreclosure property could fetch you a good amount of profit if all the necessary documentation work is up to the mark. If anything is left behind then it can result in loss. It all depends on you how you convert your loss into profit.

Posted on Thursday, March 7th, 2013 at 10:02am.

Bill wrote: Hey Joe,

Just to add to this, the worst part about foreclosures through the MLS is you buy them "As is". This gives you zero recourse if there are hole sin the pipes as the heat has been off during the preforclosure stage, there are foundation issues from neglect or , as is common in foreclosures, there has been minimal or zero upkeep on the property affecting many other unknown aspects of the building (furnaces, drainage, window seals, etc).
Now it doesn't mean these properties won't work, it's just that the buyers need to be far more educated than they typically are when they try to save money by purchasing foreclosure properties.


Posted on Saturday, December 12th, 2015 at 6:48pm.

Joe Samson wrote: Those are great points Bill. Thanks for sharing them. I have elaborated a bit more on buying real estate in an AS IS condition in Part II of this article:

Posted on Sunday, December 13th, 2015 at 9:44am.

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