With headlines of higher default rates for subprime mortgages a daily occurance is there a way to profit from other people's woes? Yeah, there is. The folks at Yahoo.com have just teamed up with RealtyTrac, a service that compiles foreclosure data, to launch a new feature (http://realestate.yahoo.com/Foreclosures).
You can type in a city or better still a zip code and pull up houses that are in foreclosure. It will give you the outstanding mortgage balance, the square footage and the number of bed and bath rooms. The same service is also available at RealtyTrac.com itself. This free feature does not include the really important info--the exact address on the street--although if you're familiar with a block you can probably figure that out because they do provide a map. RealtyTrac is offering a free seven-day trial. After that it's $49.95 a month.
Be warned. Getting from there to actually buying a home in foreclosure is very long haul. Getting the address allows you to write a letter to the owner asking if they'd like to make deal. RealtyTrac even offers "e-post cards" you can send the owners. The reality is that many people in this situation do not face reality and will hang on to their home until they are literally carried away. By then plenty of other sharpies will be competing for the property. Still, you're more likely to get a deal from a distressed seller than you are in the bidding wars of yore.