Bidding on and Buying a Sheriff Sale
“My First Experience As a Bidder By Myself (at a Sheriff Sale)“
I’m usually up by 5:00 am and checking my email by 5:30 am. The other day, at about 5:33 am I was sitting at my desk with my cats staring at me like I’m absolutely nuts because I couldn’t stop laughing about an email my mom had sent me the night before.
Just so you have some background before I get into the story (because it just wouldn’t be as funny otherwise) I’m going to recap who my parents are.
For as long as I can remember my parents have flipped houses.
It was never their full time income but they always did it as their side hustle and they were good at it. Like really good at it, sometimes making upwards of $70,000 on a flip!
As their “day job” my mom was (and still is) a realtor here in Eastern Pennsylvania. And my dad, rest in peace, had his own successful title insurance company. (Don’t know what title insurance is?!? You should if you ever plan to buy a home. Check out this article on what title insurance is and why it’s necessary.)
When it came to flipping, my parents were the dynamic duo.
My mom was great at finding the houses with the most potential and then my dad was great at digging around for more information (like whether the home had any liens against it or whether there were any second mortgages, etc.).
But everyone has to start somewhere. And before they became the flipping duo they were while I was growing up, they were like any other wanna be house flipping investors; they were nervous, anxious and unsure of what they were doing.
So the email I received from her was about the first house they ever flipped together. She sent me the MLS (multiple listing service) listing that she found while searching for homes for clients. At first she thought to herself “this address looks really familiar.” But the house was unrecognizable. She thought they may have flipped the house at some point in the past but wasn’t sure.
I didn’t understand how she couldn’t recognize a house they had flipped. But she went on to explain that “back then no one was flipping and doing fancy stuff… we just painted, maybe new carpet and cleaned it up… A prior owner must have done the exterior siding on the house and garage. It’s amazing what a little trim and latest materials can do for a place because that was a really old dated house!”
Once she opened up the public records she saw that yes, in fact, her and my dad had owned that house at one point, 32 years ago to be exact.
But she also noticed that 32 years ago the home was only in her name which brought back a flood of memories.
The funny story…
She remembered that the day of the sheriff sale for the property my dad had important meetings that he couldn’t miss so my mom had to go by herself. This was only their second sheriff sale (they bought their first home at sheriff sale as well) and my mom was beyond nervous that she had to go alone. I mean this was over 30 years ago! It was still uncommon for a woman to purchase property (GASP!) without the help of a big strong man.
If you’ve been to a sheriff sale, you’ll know it’s kind of overwhelming. In our county it’s held at the courthouse and many many many properties are auctioned off at once. So she had to sit in an intimidating court room with a bunch of other serious, cash rich, male investors and listen intently for when the address of the house she wanted to bid on came up; everything moves really quickly at these things so you really have to pay attention.
Once she heard the address she started bidding. Lo and behold she won the property for a meager $38,000. She called my dad who couldn’t believe she had gotten the property for that price, he was expecting it to go for much more. So he was a little weary she had bid on the wrong property but she assured him it was the right one and she’d prove it when she got home.
Well, when she got home, she threw the receipt at him only to witness his face go from joy to sheer panic. The receipt was for the wrong property. At this point they were both panicking thinking they had just bought an entirely different property than the one they meant to. (I’m also sure at this point dad was telling mom she was never allowed to go to a sheriff sale alone again. Because really, who comes home with the wrong house?)
Still panicking, my dad called the sheriff to see what could be done. To his shock, the sheriff was in panic as well! He realized he had given my mom the wrong receipt and had no way of contacting her to get it straightened out.
So long story short, they worked everything out and my parents were able to flip their first house! (However, the home was occupied and it took over a year to evict the prior owner. But that’s common with sheriff sales.) They wound up selling the house for over $100,000 which meant a gross profit of $60,000. She doesn’t remember what they put into, but like she said, they didn’t do anything fancy so I’m sure they made out quite well.
The crazy thing is that the house was purchased in 2016 for almost 10x what they paid for it back in the 80’s and now it’s up for sheriff sale again!
The email ended with “and that was my first experience at a sheriff sale as a bidder by myself” and I knew I had to write a blog post about it. Let me know if you liked this story and I’m sure I can drag some similar stories out of her! My mom is truly a wealth of knowledge.
Thanks for reading!