First-time investors Helen and Tayo Adesina are looking for a property to flip in Calgary and have their eye specifically on foreclosures because of the potential of a deal.

"Yeah, that's what we are hoping," said Helen Adesina, as her  husband, Tayo, pipes in. "Essentially that 's what we are hoping — that it's cheaper."

The Adesinas are looking at a four-bedroom townhouse in the southwest community of Glamorgan. It's one of about 70 foreclosure properties in the Calgary area listed on MLS right now.

Realtor Kelly Kernick says he compared the last 90 days with the first three months of 2015 and noticed foreclosures have jumped about 30 per cent. 

"Well, I think it's part and parcel of people losing jobs," said Kernick, adding he expects the trend will continue upward this year.

Kernick says, as a result, he's had a doubling of interest from investors in the past few weeks.

"Since oil started to slide, people with money who'd like to get into real estate have just been waiting for an opportunity," said Kernick. "People are thinking now is the time to pick up something at a good price."

Kernick says people have the perception that a foreclosure is automatically a good deal, but it's not. There are deals to be had, but it all depends on the property and how much work needs to be done.

"It's not like the U.S. where you are going to get stuff for pennies on the dollar," says Kernick, adding the banks usually list it at market value and then start to drop the price if it's not selling.

Alberta-wide trend

The foreclosure process begins long before the properties end up on MLS. Tim Reid, the VP of operations with Canada Real Estate Investors Club, says the company works with homeowners who are in arrears and still have time to save their home.

Reid says the public can access a list of all the owners who have been served with a foreclosure notice from the banks through the courts in both Calgary and Edmonton. The list comes out once a week. His company compiles it, and then sells it to investors. 

Reid has also seen about a 30 per cent increase in court filings over the past six months.

"And that's not necessarily always the full picture because these are just bank foreclosures that end up being the public filings, there are also private mortgages in the market place that we don't see."

The investors who buy from Reid often approach the owners directly to try to buy them out of their situation, in some cases simply paying what's left on the mortgage, in order to save the owners' credit. Investors may also offer an equity loan to help the owners pay off their debts so they can stay in the house.

Ethical dilemma

When asked whether Reid believes he's taking  advantage of someone else's troubles, he says absolutely not.

"Somebody may think that, and unfortunately real estate is a business just like any business and there are people that don't act upon ethical practices and they do unfortunately take advantage of individuals, now that's not how we operate."

Reid says the company and its investors try to find a solution that works well for both sides.

"We've done things like our home relocation program where we will give that individual, that family, first and last month's rent, I mean obviously they have to go somewhere," said Reid. "We pay for moving costs, first months groceries... We want to help people out."

As for the Adesinas, that was one of the first things they had to wrestle with when they decided to look at foreclosure properties.

"For me personally, it will help if it's empty like this. I don't have to see the people and feel bad for them and think, 'Oh my god, they're losing their home.' Their loss, my gain. That was a big deal for me, how to deal with that bit of it," said Helen Adesina.