Making Affordable Housing Attainable Through First Look

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The high costs of housing are pricing many individuals and families out of homeownership across the country. Finding an affordable property can seem nearly impossible, especially in competitive real estate markets where demand exceeds supply.

However, a number of programs across the country are working to increase access to reasonably priced housing inventory during an exclusive time period known as First Look.

What is a First Look period?

A First Look period gives eligible homebuyers exclusive early access to bid on select bank-owned (REO) and Claims without Conveyance of Title (CWCOT, also referred to as second chance foreclosure) properties. During a set time frame before the general public can purchase these listings, qualified buyers can bid on participating First Look auction properties.

First Look programs aim to promote affordable housing by ensuring individuals, nonprofits, government entities, and other qualified organizations have a fair shot at buying property. It helps to strengthen communities by turning distressed, vacant properties into sources of affordable housing for those in need.

What are the different First Look programs?

There are currently three First Look programs that give buyers access to a wide array of property types, like single family homes, mobile homes, and multi-family units. Understanding the difference between these First Look programs and how they work can help buyers take full advantage.

HUD First Look

The HUD First Look program enables priority purchasers to unlock government-owned properties that promote affordable homeownership. Exclusive bidding access empowers buyers to secure HUD listings for community housing needs.

HUD First Look properties are Claims Without Conveyance of Title (CWCOT) listings — also known as second chance foreclosures —that are being re-offered for sale via online auction. The First Look program provides exclusive early access to these government-owned properties.

The HUD First Look period is the first 30 days that the property is on the market. During this time, HUD properties can only be bid on by eligible buyers on Xome. Access is limited to owner-occupants, government entities, and HUD-approved nonprofits. Unlike Seller Select properties, nonprofits must have HUD approval to purchase HUD First Look homes.

Asset type:CWCOT second chance
Exclusivity period:30 days  
Who can submit offers and buy: Eligible buyers (owner-occupants, only HUD-approved nonprofits, governmental entities) 
Property types:Residential (single family, multi-family, modular, mobile)  

Seller Select First Look

With over a month of exclusive buying opportunity, the Seller Select First Look program enables eligible purchasers to take advantage of discounted, bank-owned homes to create affordable housing solutions for individuals and communities in need.

Seller Select properties refer to certain Fannie Mae bank-owned listings, also known as REO, that are being offered for sale for the first time after an unsuccessful foreclosure sale. With the First Look program, these properties become available to eligible buyers before hitting the open market.

The First Look period for Seller Select properties is the first 35 days that the property is on the market. During this window, only qualified buyers can submit pre-auction offers or bids on Xome. Access is exclusive to owner-occupants, government entities, and nonprofits.

Unlike HUD First Look properties, nonprofits do not need Fannie Mae approval to purchase Seller Select listings. This allows more nonprofit organizations to utilize First Look and expand affordable housing through Seller Select acquisitions.

Asset type:Bank-owned
Exclusivity period:35 days  
Who can submit offers and buy: Eligible buyers (owner-occupants, all nonprofits, governmental entities) 
Property types:Residential (single family, multi-family, modular, mobile)  

California First Look

Alongside the national First Look programs, California has its own state-level program. Select CWCOT and REO properties located in California are eligible for 30 days of exclusive early access through California First Look.

California First Look allows priority purchasers to act locally to obtain discounted listings for affordable housing needs in their communities. The program enables California buyers to unlock properties and promotes access to affordable housing statewide.

During the 30-day California First Look period, only qualified in-state buyers can place pre-auction offers and bids on Eligible buyers include California-based owner-occupants, nonprofits, government entities, community land trusts, limited equity housing co-ops, and the Regents of the University of California.

Some properties may qualify for both California First Look and the national HUD First Look program. Interested buyers should review individual property details to confirm which program applies to their circumstances.

Asset type:CWCOT second chance, bank-owned/REO
Exclusivity period:30 days 
Who can submit offers and buy: Eligible buyers (California-based owner-occupants, California-based nonprofits, governmental entities, California-based community land trusts, California-based limited equity housing co-ops, Regents of the University of California) 
Property types:Residential (single family, multi-family, modular, mobile)  

Who can participate in the First Look programs?

The First Look programs are dedicated to generating more opportunities for individual buyers and eligible organizations to access affordable housing options. Let’s take a look at the groups who are qualified to make offers on and buy these properties:

Individual owner-occupants

People looking to purchase reasonably priced property as their primary residence can benefit from First Look. The programs allow owner-occupants to bid on homes 30-35 days (depending on the property type) before investors or the general public. This gives individuals in need of affordable housing a much-needed advantage.

Nonprofit organizations

Approved nonprofits are also eligible to participate in the First Look programs. During the exclusive period, nonprofits can purchase properties that align with their organizational missions and needs. Enabling these organizations to grow their affordable housing inventory directly serves communities in need. Depending on the different First Look program requirements, nonprofits may need to be approved by HUD.

Government entities

Local and state government bodies like housing authorities are eligible to use the First Look programs to purchase properties for affordable housing programs and other initiatives. Early access helps them secure auction listings to help communities in need.

Community land trusts (California-only)

These nonprofit organizations provide perpetual affordable housing by owning land and leasing it to income-eligible buyers. The California First Look program helps community land trusts purchase properties for below-market rate housing.

Limited equity housing co-ops (California-only)

Co-op housing provides affordable ownership opportunities by having members jointly own housing. The California First Look program gives co-ops a leg up in obtaining units to expand co-op housing availability and ensures that resale of those properties maintains affordability over the long term.

Regents of the University of California (California-only)

The Regents of the University of California may utilize the California First Look program to acquire affordable housing options to further university initiatives.

How do First Look auctions work on Xome?

During the 30-35 day exclusive access period, eligible buyers can log into Xome and bid on available First Look auction listings.

Xome offers advanced search filters to help users browse First Look properties at auction, as well as property details, photo galleries, neighborhood demographics, and market trends to help them create a solid buying strategy.

Buyers can easily browse and evaluate listings relevant to their affordable housing goals. When buyers find properties aligning with their criteria, they can place bids during the auction timeframe.

What are the benefits of the First Look programs?

The various First Look programs provide many benefits, both for individual buyers who will be positively impacted by more access to affordable housing options and for nonprofit and government buyers who want to invest in First Look properties to help achieve affordable housing initiatives.

  • Competitive edge: With early access before the general public, eligible buyers gain a leg up in securing listings that align with their affordable housing plans. In tight markets, this advantage is instrumental.
  • Wider selection: With first pick of new listings, buyers can access the widest possible selection of discounted properties. Less competition in the first 30-35 days of the listing means more opportunities.
  • Community revitalization: Vacant and neglected spaces can be transformed into affordable options that support families and neighborhoods.
  • Increased affordability: Individuals and nonprofits can purchase properties before investors do, keeping housing affordable for current residents.
  • More local housing market control: Through utilizing the First Look programs, government and nonprofit buyers have greater influence over affordable housing options in their local communities.

More access to affordable housing helps communities

The high costs of housing continue to put affordable home ownership out of reach for many individuals and families across the country. In the current landscape, many people have had no choice but to turn to rentals.

But programs like HUD First Look, Seller Select First Look, and California First Look — and partners like Xome — are working hard to keep the dream of homeownership alive. By expanding auction opportunities, these programs open doors for eligible buyers, unlocking affordable housing that helps to uplift and strengthen communities.

Want to search for First Look properties on Xome? Just go to our auction search and filter the available auctions by Featured > First Look.

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