To HUD or Not To HUD?

Everyone is looking for a deal in real estate. I don’t blame them – I’m one of them! Each day I like every other Realtor, real estate investor and person with access to the internet, open the day by reviewing the newest properties to hit the market and see if they are in one of the emerging areas (nice try, I’m not giving away all my secrets) and then if there is a diamond among the mountains of coal!

Unfortunately, these days, there are very few diamonds and most of the above mentioned real estate professionals end the day looking like they’ve just come from the mines in eastern Kentucky!

 I’ve worked with a considerable number of clients that have shown a great interest in the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) or bank-owned properties, also known as real estate-owned properties or REOs. These types of properties are pretty easy to spot by their telltale white piece of paper in the window or stuck to the front door, the listing pictures with blue or orange tape sealed across the sinks and toilets, and the generally rundown look of an abandoned house as you drive by.

 If you visit here, you’ll find that a HUD home is a 1-to-4 unit residential property acquired by HUD as a result of a foreclosure action on an FHA-insured mortgage. HUD becomes the property owner and offers it for sale to recover the loss on the foreclosure claim.

Potential homeowners see in these properties the opportunity to get an awesome house for next to nothing, but is that really the case? Are there really people out there getting the deal of the century while the rest of us poor saps pay retail or premium prices? Where do we even look to find that kind of information?

 Well, luckily for you, you don’t have to research anything! I happen to love spreadsheets from my military days and have taken the time to parse through the data for 220 REO sales since the January 2016 (when did I become so nerdy?!) and provide the answers to the five most common questions about REO sales:


1. Can I really get an REO for next to nothing?

The answer to this question depends on the angle of which you are asking. If the property you are interested in is $100,000 and you think you will get it for $20,000, then the answer is no. Out of the 220 sales since January 2016, 170 of the homes sold for 90% or more of the original list price. So that $100k house you thought you were gonna steal for $25k or $50k will probably sell for closer to $90k or better.

Now, if you look at it from the angle of what is that house worth after renovations compared to similar homes in the area, now you are thinking like a pro! For example, I worked with a couple that put an offer of $116,000 on a property that was listed for $119,600…doesn’t seem like much of a deal, right? Not so fast! Assuming the property only needs cosmetic repairs (tear out the god awful plum-colored carpets, paint and take care of a few other relatively inexpensive items) and now the buyers have the biggest house on the street and comparable to two others in the neighborhood that sold for $147,000 and $148,000 respectively. Not a bad return on investment!


2. Can I finance an REO?

Yes, you can, but remember that lenders – especially federal agencies – have certain standards that a house must meet in order for them to approve the loan. The process for buying an REO favors cash; generally, an REO listing will hit the market with a deadline for submissions of offers. The selling institution will then review all offers and more often than not, pick the highest bid. However, this may not always be the case – a cash offer does carry more weight than financing. Remember, a bank or government agency is paying for that property every single day; the faster they can unload it, the better it is for their balance sheets. 62% of all REO sales were settled for cash – money talks!! Just 11% of the homes sold were financed through FHA or VA loans – again, a combination of lending standards, days needed to close and other factors make this avenue of purchasing difficult but not impossible.  


3. I’m still interested, Mike, but where are these homes? Are they only in a certain part of town?

When I meet new clients and discuss the features, price and location they are searching for in their future home, almost all clients at some point make the same comment: “I don’t want to live in the west end.” While the west end has a reputation for being less desirable, there are many people that see it as an opportunity for growth. I have shown some amazing renovations that won’t leave you house poor. In looking at the map below, I was surprised to see the high number of REO sales in 40299 and I think potential buyers would key in on this zip code – it’s not St. Matthews or the Highlands, but it does include J-town which remains one of the top 10 locations by volume in Louisville. The traditional hotspots – Prospect, the Highlands, Germantown, St. Matthews – only have one or two opportunities. So if you are looking for an opportunity, do what the pioneers did and “go west”!


 4. That’s great, Mike! Now I know where to find real estate-owned properties, but are the properties suitable for a family of four or are they all 1-2 bedrooms and 1 bath?

Absolutely! By my research, 30% of the REO properties sold since 2016 had at least three bedrooms and two baths – the sweet spot that the average home buyer is searching for. Many of the older homes in Louisville were built with three bedrooms and one bath – Wow! Mornings must have been a nightmare! – it’s not uncommon for real estate investors to squeeze in another half or full bath. A little more than 100 of the REO sales logged were for homes with just one bath.

 5. What if we want to sell our REO home?

This is my favorite part of the research I did for this blog! First, HUD requires that owner/occupants must live in the property they purchase for at least one year before they rent or sell. So we looked at 55 REO properties sold from August to December 2016. Out of those 55 homes, nine have been sold or are in the process. The chart below illustrates how flipping an REO can work out:


This chart does not take into account the cost of the renovation but it is safe to say that the sellers did see some profit for their efforts.

So to HUD or not to HUD? If you have access to cash or financing, the time and skill (or at least the desire to try) to complete as many repairs and renovations yourself, and a good Realtor to help you determine the market for the area you are buying, then REOs might be the right choice for you! Contact us today so we can help you find your diamond in the rough!