Question - I'm going to be a first-time homebuyer.

I have a couple of questions.Is it a good idea to buy a foreclosed home as a first-time buyer?

How do I know what banks to call, if I'm looking on my own?

Can I find a foreclosed home with equity already there?

Are there loans available to fix a foreclosed home at the time of purchase?

I have a loan officer working on an amount for me of $82,000 to $85,000. What do you suggest I look for if not a foreclosed home? - Retha Coppock, College Park, Ga.

Answer - First-time homebuyers should be cautious when considering the purchase of a home that was foreclosed by the lender. The reason for caution is that when homeowners default on their mortgage payment they have suffered some personal tragedy.

Along with the failure to pay there is a failure to care for and maintain the property. Not only is maintenance deferred, but some people are angry and purposely damage their home as a means of "getting even with the bank." The period of default, foreclosure and redemption extends over many months and in some states will exceed one year. In other words, foreclosed property often needs significant repairs.

The advantage of purchasing foreclosed property is the opportunity to obtain a bargain purchase. To do so, however, buyers must be knowledgeable about home prices, the cost of performing repairs and be able to perform the repairs themselves. Purchasing foreclosed property is not an easy route to buying a home cheaply.

Question - We are looking for information concerning the sale of our house. We are thinking of selling our own home without the use of an real estate agent. Can you list some of the pros and cons of this?

Our second question is if we do choose to hire an agent, we would like to know how we can check the agent's ability to sell and the percentage of the sale the agent intends on asking for. - Christopher Bain

Answer - I do not recommend that people attempt to sell their own home. Potential problems include the ability to not under- or overprice your home, time to be available to show people your home and drafting a contract that protects your interests. Paying an agent to represent you is not inexpensive. The value of your time and their knowledge makes paying a commission a reasonable cost for a fair price and quick sale.