With the zooming real estate prices showing no sign of hitting a speed bump, many prospective buyers have begun to tap another avenue to buy cheap houses—auction properties. Though it's not a common practice, banks auction the houses that they foreclose. What makes them attractive is that their selling price is usually advertised as being 15-20% less than the prevailing market price in that particular locality. However, before you jump at the prospect of buying one, consider the ramifications.
A bank auctions the properties for which the owner is unable to repay the home loan taken from the bank. This means that there could be various incidental expenses that you too could have to pay. When a borrower misses a couple of EMIs on his home loan, the lender sends him notices. If he continues to default for a few months, the bank takes over the house under the SARFAESI Act. The property is then put up for auction and this is advertised in the local dailies.
As the bank is only interested in getting its outstanding principal and some interest component, this amount is listed as the reserve price for the auction. This is usually much lower than the price that the property would fetch in the market. If the final auction price is higher than the reserve price, the extra amount is handed over to the original owner.
What to check
The low reserve price may seem tempting, but you need to ascertain whether the amount mentioned by the bank is the gross price or if there will be additional costs that you may have to pay later. Here are some questions you need to ask before you bid.
Are there unpaid dues?
When a bank auctions a property, it is sold on an ‘as is where is' basis, so you should read the bid document carefully to find out if there are any unpaid dues. “The bid document is like the prospectus of an IPO, where all the facts covering the legal title and responsibility for pending dues are stated,” says Om Ahuja, chief executive officer, residential services, Jones Lang LaSalle India.
In most cases, the owner is not in a position to pay the dues to the bank and knows that the property will be seized. So he doesn't bother to pay the associated fees, such as the society maintenance charge or property tax. From the time he receives the first notice till the property is taken over, there is a minimum period of six months. This means that if you buy the house, you will probably have to pay at least six months' worth of outstanding dues.
Obviously, the utility bills are also unlikely to have been paid. It's possible that some utilities have been disconnected or discontinued, such as the removal of the electricity meter. So, you will have to pay for renewing the connections, along with the late fee, if any.
How much repair work is needed?
Most banks do little to keep the property in good condition after taking possession. So, you may have to undertake some renovation or maintenance work to make it more habitable. It would be a good idea to visit the property and calculate how extensive the repair work is likely to be and how much it will cost.
Also, as the property is being sold on an ‘as is basis', you will be responsible for any damages that may have been caused directly or indirectly to other properties around it. For instance, if there is water seepage while the house is in the bank's possession and this damages an adjoining property or the one below it, you, as the new owner, will have to pay for it.
It's also possible that the previous owner has left some stuff in the house. You will have to check with the bank about the person who will assume responsibility for it. Will you have to pay extra for any furnishings, furniture or appliances that have been installed by the previous owner? Will the previous owner collect these or will you need to dispose of these? Who will be entitled to the money received on the sale of these items?
Says Ahuja: “Typically, the bank will decide about it after considering the outstanding amount. The ownership of the contents of the property are usually mentioned in the bid document.” However, it doesn't hurt to have a clarification to avoid any unpleasantness in the future if the previous owner lands at your door to claim his items.
How much will you have to pay immediately after the bid?
Banks fix a higher down payment for the houses that are auctioned. This is usually 20-25% of the selling price and has to be paid immediately after you place a successful bid. Though a bank has no rule about where you source your home loan, it could help you haggle for the lower end of the down payment range or get a better interest rate if you take it from the same bank.
If the final price (after taking into account all the additional costs) is lower than the market price, you have obviously landed a good deal. However, you shouldn't mind even if you have to pay a bit more. This is because you can be sure the property is a safe bet as the bank would have checked all the documents thoroughly. Besides, you will probably get a house in an established residential location.
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