THREE THINGS TO ASK BEFORE YOU BUY A HOUSE IN A BANK AUCTION.

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  • The country’s largest bank, the State Bank of India (SBI), is e-auctioning at least 1000 residential properties, belonging to borrowers who defaulted on their loans, starting 30 September through October. The properties to be auctioned included open plots, residential, industrial, and commercial units across the country.
  • Bank property auctions, typically, generate huge interest as such units are often priced lower than the existing market rates. But don’t let the lower prices lure you into a deal that you won’t like later.
  • “Purchasing such properties do make sense, but bidders should be aware that such opportunities are not as straightforward as normal property purchases. First, they need to be clued in on when and where they take place. Second, there is usually legal due diligence they need to do. They should decide if they have enough band width for it,” said Anuj Puri, chairman, ANAROCK Property Consultants Pvt. Ltd.
  • While not all properties may come with problems, it is important to do your due diligence before buying and read the terms and conditions. The answers to these three questions can help you decide whether the deal is really worth the trouble.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

  • Often people assume that properties that banks auction will have clear titles. But the auction notice, typically, has a clause. It states that to the best of the bank’s knowledge and information, no encumbrances existing and future encumbrances or any third-party claims, rights or dues.
  • Banks use legal terms “as is where is” and “whatever there is” when auctioning properties. These terms mean that the bank is selling the property based on its current physical and legal conditions, including any encumbrances.
  • In other words, the responsibilities of dealing with any problems that arise later lies with the buyer once the property is auctioned.
  • According to property consultants, there have been cases where buyers discovered that the property was disputed, or the original borrower had got a court order against the bank auction. “In some cases, lenders only take symbolic possession of a property, which means they take over the property on paper as per its legal rights, and not its physical possession. The owner could be staying in it,” said Ajay Sharma managing director, valuation services, Colliers International India, a realty consultant.
  • He added that there have been a few instances where a property was auctioned under the Supreme Court’s guidance, but the registration office was unable to effect the transfer to the new owner as the property was in a dispute. “Banks are supposed to mention that it’s a buyer-beware sale. This means that banks know encumbrances and the buyer will need to take risk. There have been judgments against the financial institutions where they have not conveyed the current property status to the buyer,” said Sharma.
  • Ensure that you do the due diligence before participating in the bidding. Banks issue notification of e-auctions well in advance with details of the properties.
  • SBI, for example, has given the addresses and sizes of the properties, names and addresses of previous owners, and other details on its website. It has also allowed interested customers to inspect the properties by seeking an appointment with bank officials, whose contact details have been given.
  • But don’t make the mistake of relying only on the information provided by the institution. In case someone claims to be the owner of the property after the purchase, it is unlikely that the bank or institution will come to your rescue.
  • So make independent enquiries regarding the encumbrances, the title of the property, and the claims and the rights of the previous owner or any other entity. While the ownership rights conveyed to the bidders are absolute and enforceable, issues about title, possession and other encumbrances could still arise.

IS IT REALLY CHEAP?

  • The terms and conditions for the properties that SBI is auctioning convey the risks that buyers need to be aware of. Besides selling the property on “as is where is basis”, the bank has also stated that the payment of all statutory and non-statutory dues, taxes, charges, fess and so on will be the sole responsibility of the bidder. So if the previous owner has not paid dues on the property, the winning bidder will need to clear them.
  • Such dues could end up neutralizing the benefits of lower prices. Some of these charges also attract interest penalty if they are not paid on time. Besides, you may also need to spend extra on repairs and maintenance of the property.
  • If the house is a part of a society, you can check if there are any pending dues. In some cases, bank officials help you with the details of pending charges when you go to inspect the proper. But not all such details may be available.
  • If you don’t get a loan from the bank auctioning the property, other institutions will not lend for a foreclosed asset. “Bidders, therefore, need to have enough cash or they would need to arrange money through other means. If you don’t get a home loan, there won’t be any deductions available on income tax for repayment. Factor such costs before bidding,” said Sharad Agrawal, executive director, capital markets, Knight Frank India, a consultant firm.

CAN YOU PAY ON TIME?

  • Before participating in the auction, banks usually ask for 10% of the reserve price as earnest or deposit money.
  • The money is reimbursed if you lose to bid. For winners, the payment deadlines are tight. According to SBI’s terms and conditions, the winner will need to deposit 25% of the sale prices, after adjusting for the earnest money, by the next working day of winning in auction. The balance 75% is to be paid within 15 days of winning the auction. If you fail to meet any of the deadlines or give up the flat, you will forfeit the deposit.
  • Since home loans, typically, take a bit of time or are difficult to materialize in such cases, you will need to arrange adequate money within the bank deadlines.
  • Banks stick to a strict payment structure as they are in a hurry to recover the loan amount, and want only serious buyers to participate.
  • If you are bidding for an auctioned property, remember that there are few legal remedies available to opt out or surrender the property back to the bank, unless the bank has not clearly mentioned encumbrances known to it.

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