When lenders take over a home through foreclosure, they want to sell it as quickly as possible. Since lenders aren’t in the real estate business, they turn to real estate brokers for help marketing their properties. Century 21 Hometown supports lenders and home buyers in transactions every week. Buying a foreclosed home service can be a bargain, but it can also be a problem-filled process. Here are five tips to help you buy smart.

1. Choose a foreclosure sale expert. Lenders rarely sell their own foreclosures directly to consumers. They list them with real estate brokers like Century 21 Hometown. You can work with one of our real estate agents who sells foreclosed homes for lenders, or have a Century 21 Hometwon buyer’s agent find foreclosure properties for you. To locate a foreclosure sales specialist, call local any of our 14 offices and ask about foreclosed properties for sale – or do a search here on our website.

Either way, ask the Century 21 Hometown real estate professional which lenders’ homes they’ve sold, how many buyers they’ve represented in a foreclosed property purchase, how many of those sales they closed last year, and who they legally represent.

If the agent represents the lender, don’t reveal anything to her that you don’t want the lender to know, like whether you’re willing to spend more than you offer for a house.

2. Be ready for complications. In some states like California, the former owner of a foreclosed home can challenge the foreclosure in court, even after you’ve closed the sale. Ask your agent to recommend a real estate attorney who has negotiated with lenders selling foreclosed homes and has defended legal challenges to foreclosures.

Have your attorney explain your state’s foreclosure process and your risks in purchasing a foreclosed home. Set aside as much as $5,000 to cover potential legal fees.

3. Work with your agent to set a price. Ask your real estate agent to show you closed sales of comparable homes, which you can use to set your price. Start with an amount well under market value because the lender may be in a hurry to get rid of the home.

4. Get your financing in order. Many mortgage market players, such as Fannie Mae, require buyers to submit financing preapproval letters with a purchase offer. They’ll also reject all contingencies. Since most foreclosed homes are vacant, closings can be quick. Make sure you have the cash you’ll need to close your purchase.

5. Expect an as-is sale. Most homeowners stopped maintaining their home long before they could no longer make mortgage payments. Be sure to have enough money left after the sale to make at least minor, and sometimes substantive, repairs.

Although lenders may do minor cosmetic repairs to make foreclosed homes more marketable, they won’t give you credits for repair costs (or make additional repairs) because they’ve already factored the property’s condition into their asking price.

Lenders will also require that you purchase the home “as is,” which means in its current condition. Protect yourself by ordering a home inspection to uncover the true condition of the property, getting a pest inspection, and purchasing a home warranty.

Be sure you also do all the environmental testing that’s common to your region to find hazards such as radon, mold, lead-based paint, or underground storage tanks.