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Southland broker gives foreclosures a site of their own

When Catalist Homes couldn't find an online database listing just repossessed properties for sale, it created one.

August 24, 2007|Annette Haddad | Times Staff Writer

Bargain-hungry home buyers have a new place to look for deals.

A free, Web-based service has debuted that allows people to search for lender-owned foreclosures in specific Southland communities, using parameters such as price range and home size.

Touted as the first of its kind, the service by Hermosa Beach-based brokerage Catalist Homes lists properties that have been through the foreclosure process.

A number of fee-based services track foreclosures, but their results may be inconsistent or only infrequently updated.

The Catalist Homes website -- www.catalisthomes.com -- claims to filter out all preforeclosures and show only those properties that have been repossessed by the lender and are available for sale.

When they are sold, they will be flagged in the website's listings as such, along with the sale price, the company said.

"We have seen tremendous demand by consumers wanting to search and view just the bank-owned listings on the market," said Michael Davin, co-founder of Catalist Homes. "When we found that no such site existed, we built the technology ourselves."

Lenders typically reclaim ownership of a house after a borrower fails to make payments and defaults on the mortgage, a process that can take months. Once they have title, lenders put houses on the market much the same way other sellers do -- through a real estate broker.

Brokers then list the bank-owned homes on the multiple-listing service (MLS), the broker-controlled database that combines the listings of all available properties represented by real estate brokers.

But these listings can be hard for consumers to find and navigate. Although they are available to view on such popular sites as Realtor.com, bank-owned listings tend to get mixed in among other listings.

What Catalist Homes has done is scour various Southern California MLS databases for such terms as "bank-owned" or "lender-owned" to give its website users easy access to those properties, which then can be sorted by price, size and neighborhood.

The Catalist site already provides viewers free access to home listings that can be sorted by active, pending and/or recently sold, another service not widely available free.

A website operated by Emeryville, Calif.-based brokerage ZipRealty Inc. recently began allowing viewers to sort for properties listed as "short sales" -- homes that the owners are selling for a loss -- and for homes in which prices have been reduced.

Lenders' inventories are starting to bulge with foreclosures at a pace not seen in more than a decade. In the second quarter foreclosures in California soared to an 11-year high.

But bank-owned doesn't necessarily mean bargain -- at least not yet. Currently only about 5% of the Southland's supply of unsold homes are repossessions, and lenders have for the most part been demanding market prices.

However, most experts expect that to change as banks grow tired of paying carrying costs on properties that aren't selling.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that the banks can't hold this vacant inventory forever," Davin said.

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annette.haddad@latimes.com

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