“Cash for keys” is an agreement between a foreclosing lender and a home owner or tenant whereby the owner or tenant receives a cash payment in exchange for moving out of the foreclosed property at an agreed-upon time and leaving the property in good condition. The new owner (which could be the original secured lender or an investor) will likely want to inspect the property after the tenants have moved out to make sure all conditions of the agreement have been met. The agreement can be a huge benefit for the new owner because they do not have to go through a time consuming and expensive eviction process, and they are able to either get the house ready to sell on the market, start renovations, or move in themselves. In addition, it provides some incentive for the tenants to take care of the property and not trash it or steal appliances or fixtures, which unfortunately is not an uncommon occurrence. It is usually a good deal for the tenant, whether a former owner or renter, because they get some money to help with moving expenses, utility deposits and perhaps rent money for a new home.
How much money can a person get in a “cash for keys” deal? It varies from lender to lender, and depends on the facts. Some lenders may have a set range they will offer, depending on the value of the house and how soon they want possession. The offer could be $500 or it could be $5,000 (though most generally appear to be closer to the low end). An investor may not offer that much, simply because they are often more aggressive in getting their investment property and are quick to start eviction procedures. If you are in this situation, either as a former owner or a tenant who is expected to vacate the property, be straightforward with the owner’s representative or realtor and ask about cash for keys. There is no harm in asking and it could lead to a nice check. However, keep in mind that if you push the new owner too far, they may just start the eviction process (unless there are laws protecting renters after a foreclosure of the landlord’s property).