In the current climate, one of the popular options for buying a home is to buy a foreclosure. Foreclosures can provide you with a great deal. They are often below market price for comparable homes, and you can buy one as your main residence, or as an investment property.

Before you get too excited about purchasing a foreclosure, though, you need to carefully consider your what you are doing. Not all foreclosures offer the same value, and some are pretty scary. Here are 4 things to keep in mind as you look to purchase a foreclosure:

1. Find an Agent Knowledgeable about Foreclosure Sales

One of the best things you can do is work with an agent who has a history of selling foreclosures, or at least some experience with the market. Your buyer’s agent will be able to help you find good deals, guide you through the process of making an offer, and help you with the paperwork.

2. Compare the Foreclosure to Recent Sales

Figure out the current market rate in the area, using comparable homes as a model. This is information that can help you figure out what the home might sell for in other cases. If you will be going up against others making offers, you might have to pay something closer to market value, depending on the home.

3. Double Check the Condition of the Foreclosed Home

There are cases in which the previous home owners have trashed the house before leaving. Additionally, if the home has been vacant for a while, it might be vandalized, and some of the metal wiring, and fixtures, might be missing. Make sure that you review the condition of the home before buying, and have a home inspection. Realize that you will be buying the property as-is. For some repairs, such as those that might be required in a home inspection, the bank might perform repairs. However, you should consider the time, effort and cost involved in fixing up a foreclosure that has seen better days.

4. Get Preapproved

In some cases, you might have to move quickly. Get your preapproval before you make any sort of offer on a foreclosure. You might even consider getting a preapproval from the lender who owns the home, on top of the lender you prefer. You don’t have to use the owner of the home as you lender if you are preapproved, but it can help the process along, since the banks can see that you qualify for the purchase.