Inspections can occasionally get embarrassing, right? It happens to all of us. That’s just part of the appraisal business. But that does not make things any easier or less embarrassing, does it. Let me tell you three stories.
First is the house with the unique basement. It’s your typical single-family residence on the ground floor; nothing out of the ordinary, nothing embarrassing. Then I tell the owner I need to go into the basement to inspect it. He hesitantly says OK, so into the basement we go. It was not your typical basement. It looked like some kind of department store down there. But instead of appliances, and lawn mowers, and household furnishings, he had row after row of adult toys and other such items. There was so much merchandise there I wondered if the house was really zoned for retail use. It was not, but the adult toy business was obviously quite good!
The next story involves a VA inspection, which means I needed to inspect the attic. The owner, a very kind and pleasant man, tells me the attic access is thru his wife’s small walk-in closet. So, I’ve got my ladder to inspect the attic, but the room is so small that I can’t get the ladder in the right place unless I close the closet door. So, I turn on the light and close the closet door. And what do I see? On the back of the door, in one of those plastic hanging things like you store shoes on, are whips, chains, handcuffs, and other such adult items. I was wondering if he bought them from the guy who owned the first house. When I came down from the attic, the guy said nothing, as if all that adult stuff I saw in the closet was common and everyday. I was too embarrassed to say anything and got out of there as quickly as I could, yet still maintain my dignity.
The third story involves another typical and common single family residence. As I was inspecting it (with the owner right at my shoulder asking dumb questions and commenting on the obvious), there was nothing in it to prepare me for what I found in the owner’s bedroom! As I entered the bedroom, I noticed he had a lot of framed photos on the wall, some of them rather large. As I got closer to them, I saw they were of his very attractive wife. It was obvious she was very attractive since many of those photos were nudes of her. I can’t take photos of the bedroom without including the nude photos. I mean, I have to look at the walls to make sure there is not any water damage, right? I can’t not look at them! I don’t know what to say to the guy about the photos, so I say nothing (out loud anyway). It’s clear I’m looking at nude photos of his wife, but that does not appear to affect him at all. Finally, I finish up and get back into my car to leave. That was really weird!
If you’ve had an embarrassing moment on an assignment, please share it with me. I won’t give out any details and, if you ask, I’ll keep your name confidential, too.
For more information on this subject, please download and listen to The Appraiser Coach Podcast Episode: 216 What Do You Do When An Inspection Gets Embarrassing?
Whats embarrassing (awkward, self-conscious, uncomfortable, upset, shameful, agitated, etc.), to many an appraiser is the question from the borrower “why the hell does your appraisal cost so much”, and knowing you can’t answer the question due to lender/AMC involvement. Knowing the lender has lied to the consumer about what the true cost of the appraisal is upsetting. Knowing you can’t disclose the truth relating to your fees (borrower / not the intended user), is uncomfortable. Knowing the lenders letter of engagement prohibits the inclusion of your invoice, is makes many self-conscious. Knowing your state doesn’t require the identification of the AMC involved, is shameful. Those things you mention, working in Southern California we call those Mondays.
Seek the truth.
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I had one appointment with a sweet, kind, elderly widow where I was carrying on with some small talk from room to room as she followed me. Anyways, I get to the basement family room and there on the couch was a dressed up male mannequin sitting upright on the couch. She then introduces me to the mannequin and continues to tell the mannequin why I’m there and acts like it’s her husband. Her husband passed away recently and talk about awkwardness, I didn’t know what to do so I just played along and politely said hello to the mannequin and carried on with my inspection. The rest of the inspection she just carried on with nothing unusual, more small talk and we parted ways as I left. I got in my car and had to take a moment and said to myself….did that just happen? I was wondering if I was on candid camera. I felt horrible for the woman, here she recently lost her beloved husband and obviously hasn’t fully accepted it and now has this mannequin as her companion who she thinks is her husband. I also had to take a photo of the family room at an angle that kept the mannequin out of the picture because I had no idea how I would explain why he was in the photo.
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I had an art work experience. The owner brought me through the house. The house inspection was straightforward until I asked to see the master bedroom. She said okay, but seemed to be a little hesitant. I walked into the room and right in front of me was a full-length nude painting of her on the side wall. I quickly turned to the side only to see a reclining full-length photo of her over the head of the bed. It was a quick inspection.
I had an inspection in a rural area years ago. Upon entering the one story dwelling I was hit by a very strong animal odor coming from a room to the right that had a sheet of plywood across the entry. As I was completing my inspection it became obvious that the room must be a living room. I indicated that the room had to be inspected and photographed and the owner reluctantly moved the plywood aside and asked me to wait for a moment. I heard some rustling noises and what sounded like a cage closing. When he moved the plywood I expected to see a dog but to my shock I was looking at an adult baboon dressed in a child’s dress wearing makeup staring back at me from the cage. I looked at the owner who was sheepishly staring at the floor, quickly took a photo and walked out. To this day I wonder what the relationship was between the owner and the baboon.
I had an inspection not to long ago where everything was going smoothly. I rang the bell and was greeted by a nice young lady whom had the softest hand shake I have ever received. I began roaming around and taking down the room counts and as I entered into the main bedroom, there was a long wall to wall rack of clothes along the bedside that was completely filled of only “outfits/costumes” and lingerie. I continued to look further into the room and then saw a video camera set up so am assuming she is making some kind of adult films in there? I didn’t dare say anything to her nor did she say anything to me but ended the appointment by washing my hands while testing the water pressure and getting out of there.
Well, my story doesn’t compare to the above embarrassing stories, but I was inspecting a very old, home in an urban, drug infested area which was in serious ‘transition’ or regentrification. I started measuring toward the rear of the home, when I stumbled over a shrub and dropped my heavy measuring tape. It slammed on the old style, round downspout and made a loud shotgun sounding noise, which was magnified by the gutters! Instantly, I heard and saw the door of a large dutch barn, shed that came into view, then a large number of young men shot out the door along with a billowing cloud of smoke! Fortunately, they scattered to the opposite side of the building! I did NOT stick around to see what they were smoking……or cooking!!! I was not “carrying” but they definitely were!!
Phrase your questions carefully. I was inspecting the home of my insurance agent, (call him Sam), and since the whole family had to be in school or at work early, we were doing the inspection at 7:30. Sam’s wife let us in, two teenage kids bounded out the door, and I asked her, “Is everybody up? Anybody still in bed?” She said “No.” So I went in and started inspecting. Went into the master suite, took pix, went to the master bath and opened the door. There stood Sam wearing only his boxers, shaving. He looked at me, said “Good morning,” shrugged, and resumed his task. I finished up, and nothing more was said.
I had an experience which wouldn’t quite be classified as “embarrassing” more like unnerving. I went on an inspection appointment where the listing agent was to let me in the house. While I was gathering my equipment & still in the car, I realize someone just opened my driver door and it was the agent so I said I’ll be there as fast as I can. He asked me If I needed help measuring and I replied politely no I can handle it. When I got inside the house I found him sitting on the couch with his arm stretched out and he asked me if I would like to come sit down next to him. I realized now he was a homosexual trying to make a move on me. I said I had to hurry up and finish this inspection and go on to 2 others. When I got in the car and left he followed me for a while then finally breaking off. That was 30 years ago. Last year I went on an inspection expecting no body to be home in an occupied house. I was told to use my Supra key. When I knocked a person answered the door in a mini skirt and low cut blouse I assumed was the home owner. Turns out it was the listing agent. I told her my routine and she just stood in the door way and talked on her phone. I was trying to figure why she didn’t tell me she was going to meet me there in the first place and why she was dressed so unprofessionally and scantly on a cool day. Long story short I realized she wanted to influence value & I didn’t take the bait.
I’ve had all the usual (as well as some not-so-usual) “adult” encounters in 25+ years of inspecting properties. While not embarrassing for me, I suspect it was for another appraiser. I was training a new appraiser for assessment field work and it was his first day in the field. We left his car at the town hall and he was riding with me while conducting the inspections. The area we were working that day was approximately 3 miles from the town hall. The third property we were inspecting was a “mini-farm” with a circa 1920’s dwelling and a couple older barns on 3 acres. The owner knew we were conducting inspections in that neighborhood that day, greeted us at the front door and welcomed us in. I briefly introduced my colleague and stated he would be conducting the inspection. He observed the living room and moved on to the kitchen. After standing in the kitchen for a minute, the owner’s 3 pot belly pigs came shooting into the room heading straight for my trainee. He absolutely flipped and, while shouting a few choice words, jumped onto the kitchen countertop. As wrong as it was, I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically. While the owner herded the pigs back into a bedroom, my trainee hopped off the counter and darted out the back door. I hollered at him to come back as he was headed down the street. He had a few choice words for me as well. He walked the 3 miles back to the town hall to retrieve his car, never to be heard from again. I suspect this young man never blossomed into an appraisal professional, at least not in rural areas.
You all will think i’m crazy, but i was doing an appraisal inspection on a vacant house. I was startled a little, then, to find someone sitting on the edge of the bed. I apologized, told them who i was and that i’d be leaving shortly. Long story short, i was reviewing the photos back at my office. The person sitting on the edge of the bed was not in the photo of the bedroom. No explanation for that. i probably was just imagining a person where there wasn’t one. But, I am not ashamed to admit i like to take someone with me on vacant home visits now.
I went to do an inspection on a home where the Realtor had said no one would be home during the middle of the day but to use the keypad for entry. I got to the home and rang the door bell to be sure no one was home and then did my outside inspection. When I got ready to go in, I rang the door bell again to be sure and got no answer so I used the keypad to get in. When I entered the home I heard the tv in the master bedroom so I started that way calling out that I was the appraiser was anyone home. When I turned the corner there was a rather large nude woman on the bed. I quickly turned and got out of the bedroom. She woke and put clothes on but since the interior inspection was just starting I had to be there a while and it was rather embarrassing with her in the room while I finished my inspection.
I inspected a house on a hot, summer day. The owner followed me around for a bit and then disappeared. After finishing inside, I yelled down the hall to him that I was going out back for pictures and measurements. It was a bright, sunny day, with the sun sparkling off the pool, so when I went back inside, it was hard to see in the dim house – thank goodness! There was the homeowner, stark naked, and getting ready for a dip in the pool. He had not heard me yell that I was going out back, and thought I had left. A bit of embarrassment on both sides, but I beat it out of there and laughed all the way back to the office. I’m sure he had a good chuckle as well.
Once appraised a house of the owner of the local Chinese restaurant early one morning. The man of the house greeted me in very broken English, but his 6 year old son spoke very good English, so he followed me around. I asked the 6 year old – “is there anyone else in the house “, it was so early I did not want to wake anyone up. The kid said “no , just me and Papa”. I said great – and barged into the master bath – where the missus of the house was taking a shower. I backed out and said to the kid “you said there was no one else in the house!!!” He said “oh yea, I forgot about Moma”. A few minutes later mom walks by me like nothing had happened.