Should You Steer Clear of Real Estate Foreclosures Within Your Self-Directed IRA?

real estate foreclosureSavvy retirement savers are likely to consider every type of investment that’s available to them. Unfortunately, individuals who set up IRAs with traditional custodians are missing out on a wide range of investing opportunities. Those who set up a self-directed IRAs with custodians such as Quest Trust Company can invest in private equity, certain precious metals, and even real estate.

And there are many potential types of real estate investments. Depending on an investor’s account balance, their willingness to take on debt within their IRA, as well as their appetite for risk, they can invest in residential properties. commercial properties, industrial or farmland properties.

In recent years, given the number of residential properties that have faced (and continue to face) foreclosure, more investors are looking at foreclosures as having good potential for significant long-term gains. But there are a number of factors that can make investing in real estate foreclosures more challenging than a straightforward market transaction, so you’ll need to consider each of them before you decide whether foreclosures are right for you.

Long Investing Timeframe. Because there are many legal steps and obligations that must be met as part of the foreclosure process, it can take significantly longer to buy a foreclosure property than to buy a property on the open market. The timing varies from state to state, but the entire process can extend for a year or more in some jurisdictions.

No Opportunity for Appraisal or Inspection. It’s quite likely that once a property goes far enough through the foreclosure process that is ready for public auction, there will be no opportunity to conduct an independent appraisal or inspection on the property. In instances where a pre-auction inspection is allowed, it is often little more than a quick “walk through” by the prospective bidders. Since conducting your research and having a good idea of what you’re getting into is important for any investment – real estate or otherwise – this information gap must be taken into account.

Unhappy Prior Owners. With foreclosure properties, not being able to conduct an inspection is likely to be even more important than would be the case for an open market transaction. It’s not unheard of for property owners who are being foreclosed upon to stop their normal upkeep and maintenance of the home (and in more extreme cases even do intentional damage to the home and its infrastructure).

No Occupants. During those stages of the foreclosure process in which no one is living in the home, it can quickly fall into disrepair or perhaps become a target for theft. Even if there are no personal effects in the home, thieves might target copper tubing, wiring, appliances and other fixtures.

Local Market Dynamics. Finally, it’s important to realize that sometimes you get exactly what you pay for. Look behind the reasons for the foreclosure – did the neighborhood become unreasonably expensive to quickly (in which case there may be more foreclosures in the same area, thus perhaps making it harder to realize a profit on the property you’re interested in)?

Don’t automatically assume that a foreclosure property will yield large investment returns. Take all the relevant factors into consideration so that you can decide whether a particular property is right for you.

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