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Article of the Month for December 2004 Printer friendly version

Participating At The California Trustee's Sale

by Ward Hanigan

There really isn't any protocol in participating, as a bidder, at a trustee's sale in foreclosure. If you intend to bid you will need to "qualify" beforehand by showing your cash (heaven forbid) or bank check(s) to the auctioneer crying the sale. If he doesn't recognize you he might ask you to show a photo I.D. also. You may qualify at any time throughout the sale process prior to someone actually buying the property, though it's best to do so as soon as practicable.

Bank-Issued Checks
A few years ago the law was changed, permitting bidders to use checks issued by most California institutions (banks, savings & loan, credit unions, etc.) and dropping the explicit requirement that they be cashier's checks.

Some trustee's will require that they hold your checks (take a bright colored envelope) during the bidding process. Once in a great while a trustee will go to the extreme of requiring that you also endorse the checks over to them before the sale! In that instance, if you are not the successful bidder, your checks will be "goofed up" and you will have to go through the hassle of getting unendorsed replacements.

Have the checks made payable to yourself. If you are the successful bidder all you'll have to do is endorse them over to the trustee. If not, you can use them for any other upcoming sale! Extra flexibility is possible by using multiple payees. Just make sure that the magic word "or" separates the names, not "and".

For the greatest versatility and efficiency get a series of checks. Begin with $1,000 and continue upwards, doubling the amount with each successive check. Using a doubled-up progression will allow you to cover the greatest number of potential sales prices (in thousand dollar increments) with the least number of checks (see the Cashier's Check Combination chart).

Since you don't know at what level your competition will drop out of the bidding it's smart not to bid in increments any higher than $100 to $200 . . . no matter how erratic or disdainful the other side becomes. Don't drag out the intervals between bids either. That seems to irritate the auctioneers, causing some to increase the minimum overbid.

Have a pre-determined maximum bid in mind beforehand. Then abide by it rather than getting emotionally involved and bidding too high just to show someone up. In foreclosures there really is "another day to make another dollar".

Trustee's Deed
If you are the successful bidder at the sale you'll initially get a receipt and a copy of the vesting instructions you gave the auctioneer. Any overpayment due you, as well as the notarized Trustee's Deed, will be sent to you by the trustee's office if you don't pick it up in person.

Record your Trustee's Deed yourself rather than letting the trustee do it (you'll do it faster) and get a certified copy of it at the same time. It's important to do so quickly, and perfect your title, so you can legally take action against any stubborn tenants or past owners in any unlawful detainer action you might be forced to pursue.

Information provided by this website is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Please consult your investment advisor and/or attorney before entering into any transaction. Read our privacy policy.

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