Want to Buy a Foreclosed Home? Try Google Maps or Zillow

Online real estate sites like Zillow and Google Maps thrive.

ByABC News
December 10, 2010, 6:59 PM

Dec. 14, 2010 — -- With mortgage rates at their highest level in six months, the number of mortgages rising though still near record lows -- Freddie Mac reported that the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.61 percent last week -- this may be an opportune time for buyers.

Real estate websites are offering better tools to research foreclosed homes for sale, sometimes at a steep discount. Earlier this month, RealtyTrac announced that in the third quarter of this year, the average sales price of properties sold in some stage of foreclosure was over 32 percent below the average sales price of properties not in foreclosure.

Google Maps began offering a search feature last year for foreclosed properties. It is growing in popularity, though it is not very novel, said Justin McHood of MortgageCommentator.com

"They haven't done a very good job of differentiating themselves from people who do it better," McHood told ABC News.

McHood, who writes about mortgage topics for Zillow.com, one of the largest real estate websites, said a number of sites are simply rehashing what is known as "multiple listing services," regional listings of properties for sale.

RealtyTrac.com is a real estate website that specializes in foreclosed properties, with over 2 million listings, according to senior vice president Rick Sharga. Although all foreclosed properties are listed in public records, he estimates that less than 6 percent of public foreclosure databases are online. Sharga said RealtyTrac.com fills that gap by hiring contract employees to hand collect those records in court houses in 2,200 counties nationwide.

Sharga said RealtyTrac.com, which offers free and paid-for information, has foreclosure-specific information that other sites may not have, including data about multiple loans on a foreclosed home. Sharga said this is important because of short sales, in which a lender takes less than what is owed on the property.