Exploring Realtytrac.com

This company offers, for a fee, information on foreclosures and the beginning of that process, lis pendens filings (notice of a “suit pending – in this case, a future foreclosure action). The idea is that this information can be useful when negotiating a purchase and of course, will alert a buyer to bank owned property that might be available cheap. This morning I signed up for their offer of a free 7 day trial (warning: they require credit card information and if you fail to affirmatively cancel within those seven days you will be automatically enrolled in a contract costing $50 a month. I’ve had trouble cancelling this sort of deal in the past – no, not porno sites – but professional curiosity moved me to try it). And there is some useful stuff here.

I found one property in Riverside (I’m not giving exact addresses here because some of the properties I’ll discuss are owned by friends and I’m uncomfortable revealing embarrassing information about them. And, if I’m uncomfortable doing that to friends, my conscience tells me that I should feel just as uncomfortable doing the same thing to strangers. I don’t, but my conscience tells me I should, and what’s the point of having a conscience if I ignore it?) – where were we? Oh yes, a Riverside mansion with a $3.0 million lis pendens filed against it. Because I could sell that house for $9.0 million in a heartbeat, I don’t think there’s a buyer’s advantage to be gained by knowing that the owner can’t or won’t pay his debts – if things get dicey, he can always bail out at a profit.

That’s not necessarily so for a Back Country home that also has a $3.0 million lis pendens in the land records. I don’t think this house will fetch more than that and, in this market, it might draw offers that are considerably less. It probably helps a buyer to know what the seller needs to get out from under, but if the house won’t support a price at that level, what good does it really do? This information may guide you away from the property, however, because you’ll probably be negotiating with a bank before long, and that’s a tough slog.

The knowledge of a $2.0 million lis pendens on another house may not be helpful in itself but RealtyTrac gives out the owners’ names and they happen to have a spec house up for sale that seems to be going nowhere. If a buyer were interested in either property, this knowledge might be good to know before negotiating.

So – worth $49.95 a month? I don’t think so because, if a client were interested in a particular house I could go to Town Hall and run the title for free. As a means of satisfying your curiosity about your neighbors’ finances it works well but at a price. But I’ll keep checking in on the free version, which doesn’t give more than the street and, sometimes, the amount of the lien. If things keep getting worse, there may be enough new listings on the site to justify RealtyTrac’s charge.

2 Comments

Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate

2 responses to “Exploring Realtytrac.com

  1. …and, if I’m uncomfortable doing that to friends, my conscience tells me that I should feel just as uncomfortable doing the same thing to strangers. I don’t, but my conscience tells me I should, and what’s the point of having a conscience if I ignore it?

    You’d make a fine Catholic.

  2. CEA

    Chris, it might be helpful to know how many Greenwich properties are in “lis pendens” or whatever stage, esp. comparing this over time.

    What would happen is as the number of properties in the foreclosure process increases, it would decrease the value of ALL properties for sale. RealtyTrac is probably not great as a snapshot, but as a picture over time.