I’d estimate that 30-40% of the houses I have inspected for buyers in the last 6 months have been foreclosures. That number is staggering. But it means there are some great deals out there for those that are willing to take the chance. Obviously, we believe you can minimize the risks with a proper inspection.
Foreclosed houses are generally owned by a bank and have been winterized. The gas service is turned off, the water is off, the electric service is off. Pilot lights have been extinguished, and plumbing system has been emptied.
In order to complete a thorough inspection, you need to make sure the utilities have all been restored prior to the inspection. The systems should be properly de-winterized, and any pilot lights should be re-lit. Ideally, the electric service will have been turned on for a minimum of 24 hours prior to the inspection. The water service should be turned on at the meter AND should be turned-on inside the home. Systems that have not had the utilities turned on cannot be properly inspected.
We recommend never taking the chance of turning on the water service yourself. If the water has been off in a home, especially during the winter months, its impossible to tell the reason for the service disconnect. A good assumption is that the service is off because of the foreclosure, but it may be off because of broken pipes in concealed areas. I’ve inspected at several houses where the water service was off at the time but someone decided to turn it on. Even with good intentions, things go wrong, and the next thing everyone saw was water coming out of ceilings, walls, and exterior siding. Don’t let this happen to you, and don’t take the liability of causing damage to a property that is not yet yours.
Is it any wonder that gas companies generally take the meter with them?