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In today’s market, where foreclosures are becoming as common as houseflies, buying a property in foreclosure might make financial sense. On average, foreclosures sell for about 10-20 percent less than the market value of similar properties in the same location. Some properties sell for less than tax value. That could make all the difference to buyers who could not otherwise afford it.

But amateur buyers should proceed with caution. A foreclosure carries serious potential risks. If you are just an average Joe wanting to get a good deal on a home for your family, a little bit of homework will go a long way toward preventing a costly mistake.

Get loan approval first.

Before you do any looking, get pre-approved by your bank or a trustworthy lending company. That will save you precious time that you will need once you find the property you want.

Liquidate assets for a down payment.

Most loans require some percentage for a down payment, so gather what you have before you start looking. When you know what you want, you will have the cash (or the check) ready to put on the table.

Use a realty professional.

Unless you have done this often, this is not the time to go solo. The details and legal aspects of a foreclosure vary from state to state, county to county, and even from case to case. A realtor will provide valuable advice and will think of details that would not likely occur to you.

Decide what stage of foreclosure you want to pursue.

You can buy property in foreclosure in three ways:

-Pre-foreclosure means the homeowners have been told by the lending company that they have X amount of time to sell or they will lose the property. They will be motivated to sell for less so it doesn’t go to foreclosure. Buying in pre-foreclosure means you have to be ready to act quickly, but you will be able to view the property.

-Foreclosures sold at auction usually take place on the courthouse steps. Normally you will not be able to view the property. This is the riskiest way to buy. In most states, cash is required, and the new owner is responsible for any liens on the property. It may seem like the best way to get a good deal, but you will also have to compete against knowledgeable bidders.

-Real Estate Owned (REO) homes are properties that did not sell at auction and are owned by the bank or lending company. The bank pays a real estate broker to clean it up and sell for a profit, usually at or just below market price. The discount may not be as deep as those in the previous stages, but banks are usually willing to negotiate, especially if they have a number of these properties on hand. You can see what you are buying, although in this stage properties are sold “as is”: nothing further will be done to fix it up before a sale. To the average buyer, the process of buying an REO property is much easier.

Be ready to repair and remodel.

Just assume at the outset that the house, barn, etc. on the property will be in need of some repair. If the owners could not keep up with the payments, they probably did not spend money on maintaining or upgrading the property either. If you have experience with remodeling, then you are in a good position to buy a foreclosure and fix what is needed. Hiring contractors will be more expensive. Either way, you will have the cost of materials, and that can add up to a significant amount of added cost to the total that you paid for the house. In the end, making repairs might be worth it, if you like remodeling, if the house is sound, and if you have ideas that you would like to try but could not afford to otherwise – and, of course, if the total cost of the house plus repairs is less than you would have paid for full market value.

Beware of hidden costs.

Even newer homes could be hiding serious structural imperfections. The most costly repairs to a home are often those that the amateur eye does not always recognize: replacing a roof, replacing the plumbing system, foundation and support beam repairs, rewiring, or replacing a septic tank. A home inspection by a professional can provide you with a better idea of what you are in for, if you are allowed to do one. Keep in mind that even a professional inspector might miss something major (hidden termite damage). Just be ready for the possibilities beforehand. Repairing old barns and out buildings is a lot easier but can also be costly. Fortunately these can probably wait a little longer or until you are ready to use them.

Keep a cool head.

It helps not to get too attached to a property. A foreclosure that looks too good to be true probably is, or else the investor sharks would have snatched it up. If you are outbid on a property you really liked, keep looking. There will be something out there for you, sooner or later.

Consider buying a HUD home foreclosure.

HUD properties (ie., government-owned) have some advantages. One is that prospective homeowners get first dibs over the investors. HUD also offers photos of the foreclosures for sale, inspection reports, and an estimate of what it will cost to make repairs to the property. Sometimes the property will have thousands of dollars of free equity after you purchase it, so it really is worth looking into.

Buying in foreclosure could be the best deal you ever made, especially if you are able and willing to put some “sweat equity” into it. You will be better off if you have already owned a home and know the ins and outs of home ownership. You will also be ahead of the game if you enter it with savvy, experienced professionals – real estate agents, brokers, or a real estate attorney. Do your homework, and get ready to find the property you’ve always dreamed of owning, and making it your own.

More info: I Dream About Owning A Farm. Where Do I Start..?

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5 of the Best Beaches in Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean twin island nation closest to South America, is known for its lush vegetation, vibrant cultural festivals and sumptuous cuisine. But these two islands are also known for their idyllic beaches, some of which are tucked away from the beaten path.

So, if you’re taking a trip to the islands, here’s a list of beaches that you should make a point of visiting.

Beaches in Trinidad

Las Cuevas

Out of all of the beaches on the North Coast of Trinidad, Las Cuevas stands out for its nearby caves which can offer a much needed respite from sunbathing. The name of the beach actually means “the caves” in Spanish. Snack bars, nearby showers and toilet facilities make spending the day at Las Cuevas a breeze.
Life guard services are available from 11 am to 5 pm.

Maracas Bay

Maracas Bay is arguably the most popular, or at least the most well-known, beach in Trinidad. The water can become rough and hazardous, so be sure to swim between the red flags that designate safe areas. Life guards are generally on duty there from 10 am to 6pm.

Great food and amenities are available at Maracas. When you’re there, the locals will tell you that you must try a local dish called “Bake and Shark” which is a fried shark filet sandwich that you can dress with your choice of tasty sauces.

Beaches in Tobago

Pigeon Point

Located in Crown Point, just about 10 mins away from the airport, Pigeon Point’s waters are calm and family friendly. The beach is also very close to Buccoo Reef which is one of the most readily accessible coral reefs in the Caribbean.

There are regular tours from the beach to the reef and the Nylon Pool, a shallow section of crystal clear water just beyond the reef. The pool got its name from Princess Margaret who visited the island in 1962. Its waters are said to have the powers to rejuvenate you both physically and spiritually.

Buccoo Reef tours are done in glass-bottomed boats and the tour guides are just as colourful as their sea vessels. You can book your trip right on the beach and sign up for jet-ski rides as well.

If you’re just interested in having a relaxing day, Pigeon Point is a great choice once you’re willing to pay the US $3 entrance fee. It’s worth it, though. Due the shape and size of the beach, you can still enjoy your fair share of privacy and tranquility even when it’s crowded.

The beach bar at Pigeon Point, Renmar’s, is fully stocked with a wide range of alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages to quench your thirst after a long day of fun in the sun. Try the fish and chips there, it’s delicious.

Englishman’s Bay

Located on the west coast of Tobago, Englishman’s Bay is secluded from the main road by a mile or so of lush vegetation. The deep clear water makes it good for swimming and snorkeling. But, be careful. The steep sea shelf makes the transition from shallow to deep water potentially dangerous.

People go to Englishman’s Bay to relax on a beautiful beach that seems hidden from the outside world. There’s a restaurant on the beach offering tasty local dishes. The craft vendors there give you chance to pick up some souvenirs for friends and family back home.

Mt Irvine

The beaches at Mt Irvine, located on the Southwest/Leeward coast, have excellent facilities and some of the best snorkeling opportunities on the island. The Mt Irvine Beach Hotel is open to the public and offers refreshments- via their restaurant- as well as changing room and toilet facilities. And Mt Irvine Bay is well known for its watersports and snorkeling with coral and reef fish in abundance. Snorkelling gear can be rented onsite.

Trinidad and Tobago offers a fun getaway experience for people who love great food, culture, vibrant nightlife as well as lazy days lounging in the sun. Book your trip today.


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