According to online foreclosure-tracking specialist RealtyTrac, Florida has the highest rate of foreclosure listing in the United States. This includes properties for sale during pre-foreclosure (the owners' 'grace' period for paying off the debt between foreclosure listing and the bank taking repossession), through purchase of a foreclosed property already held by the bank, or by auction. Other well-known locations in similar circumstances include Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego and many more. Since these distressed sales clearly offer a heavy discount against an already severely devalued market (up to 28 per cent year-on-year falls), the opportunity for bargain hunting and quick profits seems self-evident. Add to the equation that, according to Relocate-America, both Phoenix and San Diego, not to mention seven separate locations in Florida, figure in their list of 'Top 100 Places to Live 2008', and you could be forgiven for packing the cheque book and heading straight out to Chek Lap Kok for the next flight to the gold fields. Needless to say, it's not quite that simple. By far the majority of properties that have been listed for foreclosure are there precisely because they have already been mortgaged by their owners right up to the hilt and beyond. Anything that can be borrowed against the property probably already has. Foreclosure is the last resort of desperate people, who, when they walk out of their home, they walk out on all the additional loans, liens and debts, too. If for whatever reason the purchaser fails to uncover these before signing the contract, then the buyer has acquired those debts, too, and is fully responsible for them. In addition, if for whatever reason the contract and the sale are not done according to the very fine detail of the law, and the seller or his representatives can find fault with them, then they have the right to sue to have the sale reversed. Looked at in this light, foreclosure sales start to look less like a gold mine than a minefield. The 'window of opportunity' to capture a prime property in the pre-foreclosure grace period is short - mostly a matter of weeks - and the risk potential high, particularly for the foreign investor who is not able to be on the spot and 'hands-on' in the transaction.