A HUD home is one that was originally purchased with an FHA loan and has, through foreclosure, become property of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In short: It’s an FHA foreclosure.

Buying a HUD home – while different from buying a non-distressed home – can be a great way to get a good deal on a home provided you’re willing to put a little work into the property. Many of these government foreclosures are sold as-is, which is important to keep in mind when reviewing listings online.

HUD homes are first offered to owner-occupant bidders, and then are opened to bids from investors. In order to buy a HUD home, you need to make an online bid during the designated “offer period.” The price of these homes will continue to drop until an offer is made and accepted.

If you’ve decided you want to purchase a HUD home, be sure to ask yourself the following four questions before getting started:

1. Do I have a qualified real estate agent?

Only real estate agents who are registered with HUD can represent homebuyers in the HUD online auction process. But just because you’ve found an agent registered with HUD does not mean that you’ve found your perfect match.

In order to find the right real estate agent for your homebuying needs, search through the HUD homes that are listed in your area and determine which agents have represented the highest number of winning bids.

Next, interview the top two or three agents. Ask each of them how the HUD homebuying process works, how long the agent has represented buyers, whether the agent will accompany you to inspect properties, and what special knowledge he or she has gained from writing so many winning bids. The answers to these questions will help you determine which agent will work best for your situation.

2. Should I do a home inspection?

Because HUD homes are sold as-is, you could end up purchasing a home in need of repair. According to HUD, the agency does not warrant the condition of its properties nor does it pay for repairs. It does, however, urge potential buyers to get an inspection prior to submitting an offer.

When you go to inspect the property, make sure you take photos and detailed notes. This will help you remember any home improvements that need to be made when it’s time for you to make your offer.

3. Is my financing and paperwork in order?

As you prepare for your HUD home purchase, work on getting all of your loan documentation together ahead of time. Your lender will likely need your W2 forms, paycheck stubs, tax returns, and copies of your savings, investment, and retirement accounts, as well as documentation of other assets and liabilities. You’ll also need copies of your driver’s license and other identifying information.

Do some research to see if you qualify for FHA financing or special FHA deals, such as the $100 Down Payment Incentive program or the Good Neighbor Next Door program. The latter offers a discount for law enforcement officers, teachers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians who are buying HUD homes, as long as they meet certain eligibility requirements.

Before your sale is final, you’ll need to provide the seller with a prequalification letter from your lender with the sales contract. The letter must state that you are qualified for the amount of the contract and must also note the type of financing and any assets that have been verified for closing.

4. What if I change my mind?

If you are buying a HUD home, the earnest money is not in jeopardy until the contract is signed, so you’ll have a few days after the bid is accepted to cancel. Once you submit your offer, you can cancel it before the HUD agent opens the bid electronically. You can even cancel your offer after the bid is opened by sending an email to the company managing the home.

If you’re interested in learning more about HUD homes, check out the hud.gov website and www.hudhomestore.com.