FORTUNE Investor's Guide 2009
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Reaping repo rewards

Want to brave the wild world of foreclosures? Follow this advice.

By David Whitford, editor at large
Last Updated: December 24, 2008: 10:24 AM ET

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10 worst real-estate markets for 2009 10 worst real-estate markets for 2009 10 worst real-estate markets for 2009
The housing market hasn't bottomed out yet. For the third quarter, the closely-watched S&P Case-Shiller national home-price index fell 16.6%, and experts are predicting further declines. Of the top 100 markets, here are 10 with the worst forecasts.

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- As home prices continue to skid and foreclosure rates soar (up a further 38% since the third quarter of 2007), some investors are on the lookout for outrageous bargains. Think you're ready to jump in?

Consider paying cash

Some transactions require that you close within days. That's not enough time to get a bank loan. A so-called hard-money loan is an option, but you'll pay 15% plus points, and you can't count on refinancing right away.

Perform due diligence

Foreclosures are typically sold as is, where is, but you can inspect the property before you bid. Even after you put down a deposit, you can change your mind and get your money back. Private auctions typically offer a bigger window for deliberation than public auctions on the courthouse steps.

Hire a licensed appraiser

You don't care how much the lender has discounted the note; all that matters is how much the house is really worth. Only an appraiser can tell you that. Could cost you a few hundred dollars to find out. Could save you a few hundred thousand dollars once you know.

Buy short

Instead of foreclosure, Scottsdale real estate advisor Robin Reed often advises what's known as a short sale - a negotiated transaction involving you, the bank, and the homeowner prior to formal foreclosure. You'll have more time to arrange financing - and since the lender has fewer costs to recover, you may get a better price. Check public NOD (notice of default) listings for prospects. To top of page

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