3 Challenges of Buying and Inspecting a Foreclosure

I got a call yesterday to inspect a home in foreclosure. For the inexperienced inspector, this could be quite the challenge. We have little to no access to data or history about the properties we inspect and when the home is owned by a bank or other governmental agency the opportunity to ask questions or uncover info is around 0%. That raises the risk factor for both the inspector and the buyer.  

Let’s look at 3 challenges to inspecting a foreclosed property. 


Most foreclosed properties are sold “as is”. That means the bank has no obligation to disclose flaws and typically they don’t know exactly what the defects are anyway. It’s not a stretch to suspect that the previous homeowner let upkeep and maintenance slide. Couple that with a home that could have been vacant for months and you have the likelihood of roof leaks, rot, decay and an increase in the likelihood of plumbing and sewer problems.

Utility Connections

First Things First – Ask your real estate agent who is responsible for having the utilities turned on. Banks often state upfront in their special addendum (the seller’s agent might help here) that they won’t be responsible for having utilities turned on to allow for inspections. Buyers, prepare yourself for the added expense and the challenge of having the electricity, water and the gas turned on (if not an all electric home). Also, some municipalities have ordinances/laws that add special “city inspections” when utilities are shut down and these city rules could raise the dollar amount.   


If the home has been winterized (water has been shut off) there are several points to consider when having the water re-connected.

  • Turning the water on a vacant home is best performed by, at a minimum, a two man crew. If there were leaks when the water was shut off or if faucets are open, the risk of flooding the home is greatly increased. Take Care! At this point, you don’t own the home.
  • The water heater will have been shut down. It is NOT smart to fire-up a water heater’s heat source without filling the tank. You may need a plumbing contractor.
  • Disconnecting the gas service can lead to a gas line pressure test. You will need a plumbing contractor and this process may require a municipal permit fee.
  • Toilets and drains could have been filled with anti-freeze. All of the toilets and water shut off valves are most likely in the off position, thereby requiring you to turn each one on, individually. Toilet shut off valves are notorious for leaking. Take care and monitor the valve for leaks after you’ve turned it to the on position.
  • Most importantly, after the inspection you could be asked to pay to have the plumbing system re-winterized.


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