One result of the increase in foreclosure sales is a surge in "distressed" properties on the market. So maybe this creates an opportunity for those shut out of the market before. There are discounts out there, but what's involved with getting a fixer-upper? You're willing to do some work--is anyone willing to lend you the money?

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The FHA Streamline K program may be just the ticket. You get a single loan to purchase and rehabilitate your property. Here's what you need to do:

* Find a property. Your purchase offer must state that you will need a 203(k) loan to complete the purchase.

* Find a contractor to write an estimate of work needed and materials required. You aren't allowed to do the work yourself unless that's your line of work. Even then, you won't be allowed to pay yourself. But you may be allowed to save money by doing cleanup and hauling.

* Find a lender approved to do 203(k) loans. Get your mortgage application approved. Get your project appraised (there will be two--before and after--and your loan will be based on the cost of buying and fixing, not the home's eventual value.

* Complete repairs. When the loan closes, the seller will be paid and the remaining funds will be held in escrow for the contractor.

* Move in! Once the repairs are complete and approved, the builder receives final payment. You owned a "fixed up" house that may already be worth more than you paid. Those willing to make a little extra effort can benefit. It's true that hard circumstances can create opportunities for those willing to look.