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My experience with HUD homes is that they take at least 50% longer to close than a conventional sale. Even if you are paying cash, HUD"s bureaucracy just takes time.
Everyone has different experiences on a HUD owned homes, Including myself. We can never determine how long until you get into it. 3 Weeks is quick for HUD if your title search goes well. If the foreclosure was not done properly or the bank did a quit claim deed it could take another week or 2. If there is a mortgage company 5 weeks is very fast. Contrary to what Brian said I have experienced HUD to really push to get things to the table ASAP. A lot depends on a great title agent/processor to get things right and closed smoothly.
Generally it takes 30 to 45 days to close on a HUD home. Cash purchases are quickest, purchases with loans take longer. HUD can be cumbersome organization to work with since it has strict rules and is bureaucratic in nature. So don't expect anyone at HUD to jump through hoops to get a deal done. If you use a lender pick one that is quick to respond to you as the length of time a lender takes to complete a loan will have a BIG impact on the closing time. Also, the title company should be one that has closed HUD deals before as HUD does things differently.
You can close as quick as HUD and the lender (if financing) will allow. All cash deals can close in as little as 2 weeks as HUD wants to liquidate properties as fast as possible, but they dictate the process. Also, offers on HUD homes have to be submitted by a registered real estate agent so you'll have a built in guide. Find a local agent that sells HUD homes and they should be able to walk you through the process.
If one is purchasing a HUD home with cash, once the bid is accepted and the required docs are submitted by the buyer's agent, it is possible to close very quickly. I have closed cash HUD home buyers in two weeks. Obviously, if one is financing, everything will hinge on the lender's time frames.