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Wed, Sept. 18

Column: Banks make it hard to inspect foreclosed homes thoroughly

Have you ever tried to email someone, and had to "sign in" to their email? It explains that it is their way of avoiding spam (junk email). Of course, this means extra time for you. You usually have to fill in some blanks, including listing all your email addresses. And then you have to read those squiggly letters in a box, and enter them in another box. I have trouble with those funny letters anyway. And then, after you do all that, it says it will forward your e-mail to the recipient and they will decide if they want to accept it.

Usually I just don't send the email if I have to "sign in." Of course, if it's a client waiting for an inspection report, I have to get it emailed to them. But what aggravates me is when someone sends me an email first, asking me to reply or for information. And when I reply, they won't accept my email. Why would you email someone and ask for information and then make them sign in when they reply? I do not reply to these emails.

So I received a phone yesterday from someone in Colorado. She said she emailed me twice and I did not reply. I told her I reply to all emails, except those that require me to sign in to send them email. She patiently (read "condescendingly") explained this was so she would not receive spam, and that I only had to sign in the first time. She actually called me stupid for not replying to her email. Actually, what she said was that my actions "seem kind of stupid" to her.

I asked her if she knows how to add emails to her "safe sender" list. She said yes. So I asked her why she would send an email to someone asking for a reply and not add them to her safe sender list. That would only take her two seconds, and would be much more courteous than making someone take the time to reply and then have to sign in. I told her that her actions "seem kind of rude" to me.

Click. There's one inspection I won't be getting. Probably not a bad thing, since she already thought I was stupid.

I always wonder how many important emails these people are missing: recall notices or updates on things they've bought, like cars or software. Old friends trying to get in touch with them. Schools having class reunions. Secret herbs that improve your sex life. I get a lot of spam - sometimes 30 or more a day. But I can go through them very quickly, although I have worn a groove in my "delete" key. And every once in a while there's something important or interesting in there (like those secret herbs).

And now another pet peeve, but one that's actually somewhat relevant to this column. The owners of bank-owned properties seem to be getting away with just about anything these days. Last year they started limiting the inspection period to seven days, or even five days. This means the buyers cannot get a busy inspector. I am often booked a week out in the summer, and so are the inspectors I recommend if I can't make a timeframe, and sometimes so are the termite inspectors. So by limiting the buyers to a five-day inspection period, the banks are forcing the buyers to pick the least-busy inspectors.

I have also heard that some banks start the inspection period upon the bank's verbal acceptance of an offer. This forces the buyer to schedule inspections before they even have written acceptance.

And now, some banks are requiring the buyers to turn on the utilities in their name. In 20 years of home inspecting, I never heard of this practice until this year. This is not the real estate agents - these are the policies of the banks. I have been told that sometimes the utilities are only allowed to be on for 24 hours. So if an inspector has to delay for any reason - car trouble or personal reasons - the utilities may not be on for him or her.

Also, the gas company frequently "red-tags" a gas appliance. Or perhaps there is a plumbing leak somewhere. So the gas or water cannot be turned on until these are improved. It is virtually impossible to get a contractor out there to repair something the same day. And, of course, if it takes a couple of days to get something improved, now the buyer is past his or her inspection period.

A significant number of my inspections in the last year are bank-owned properties. So I'm not whining (too much). I'm grateful for the business. And some of these bank-owned properties must be good deals because the banks are getting away with these requirements and restrictions. But this is something that the buyers need to be aware of - that they may have to turn on utilities in their name.

A buyer asked me last week if they were liable for damage. What if there is a leak when the water is turned on that causes damage to the home? If the buyer has the water turned on, are they liable for this? I would hope not. The buyer only turned the water on because the seller would not. But I do not know the answer - this is a question for your real estate agent. Perhaps it is addressed in the purchase agreement or addendum.

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