Inspection business rises in step with foreclosures |

Inspection business rises in step with foreclosures

Pat Patera

“It looks like popsicles up here,” says an inspector calling to report on an empty house near Lake Tahoe. Pipes had burst, and frozen geysers now squat in the abandoned home.

Those sorts of calls to Sierra Field Service Inc. are increasing as the cooling housing market leaves borrowers stuck with mortgage payments they don’t want. And some homeowners simply walk away.

Sierra Field Service Inc. has seen an increase in business every month for the past few years, says President Trudy Naumann.

The Reno-based firm fields 100 inspectors, who cover six states as they work on contract with banks and mortgage companies.

“Compared to Las Vegas, the Reno-Sparks area is not in too bad a shape,” says Naumann, who has been in business for 20 years.

Sierra Field Service just boosted its team of inspectors in Reno to three, but has 12 inspectors working the Las Vegas region, up from just four inspectors about a year ago. One Las Vegas Zip Code, 89031, harbors the highest delinquency rate in the nation.

Fifteen inspectors are spread over the northern Nevada landscape, and an equal number work the south.

On the job, an inspector drives by properties in the foreclosure process but still occupied by their owners. And while inspectors may stop to talk with the owners to aid in their assessment of the property, they are not collectors, says Naumann.

If an inspector finds the house is vacant, a report goes to the lender within 24 hours. Meanwhile, preservation experts take over to winterize sinks and commodes with antifreeze and to change the locks to secure the property.

“A property could sit there quite a while before the bank or mortgage company gets title to it,” says Naumann.

“In this business, you can find anything,” she adds. “Most of my companies just want to know if the house is marketable.”

But that doesn’t mean pristine. “Investors are buying as is,” she says. Needed repairs often are cosmetic,

involving nothing more than carpet and paint.

But getting into the business takes more than just a pickup truck and willingness to haul away some trash.

“You can’t just go pell-mell into a property that has mold or a meth lab,” says Naumann. “If you find that, you back right out.” The firm calls in a professional to deal with the hazardous conditions.

Naumann doesn’t think the foreclosure-related business is going to decline any time soon.

“It’s still going to be an issue years from now,” she predicts.


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