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Need-to-knows when buying at auction

DEAR BENNY: I won the bid on a house at a public auction. I was required to make a deposit of $20,000 and now an occupant will not allow my mortgage appraiser into the property to do an appraisal. Without the appraisal, no one seems to be able to do the loan without 30 percent down.

Is it possible to have a mortgage company do a drive-by appraisal with the purchaser making only a 5 percent deposit on the loan? – Lionel

DEAR LIONEL: I am confused.

Did you know before you made your bid that there was an occupant in the house?

Have you been inside to make sure that it is in good, or at least decent, condition?

Did the advertisement about the auction indicate that the house was occupied?

You asked if the mortgage company can do a drive-by appraisal. In today’s economic condition, when banks and mortgage lenders are being carefully scrutinized, I seriously doubt that any lender will permit such a basic appraisal.

What will happen to your $20,000 if you don’t go to settlement (also called escrow)? I suspect that under the terms of the auction sale, if you cannot close you will forfeit that deposit.

Word of caution to everyone: If you want to buy a house at a foreclosure sale, make sure that you do your homework before you make a bid. Get a title report, inspect the house inside and out and find out what the outstanding mortgage is that you will have to pay off. Are there any tax or other governmental liens on the property that will have to be paid off? Are the utilities in place?

These are some of the questions that anyone considering buying at a foreclosure sale must answer. I also suggest that you retain a local real estate attorney to walk you through the process.

DEAR READERS: In a recent column, I addressed the question of what a homeowner in a community association should do if she is disturbed by barking dogs.

I suggested first talking to the dog owner to explain your concerns. If that did not work, I suggested asking the board of directors to assist in curtailing the noise. And if that did not work, I wrote: “I believe you have only three alternatives: (1) file a lawsuit against those owners claiming they are creating a private nuisance, (2) put up with the noise or (3) move out of the community.”

I received a large number of e-mails on this topic. Here are some of the comments from my readers:

• As relates to the barking dogs in the gated community, very likely there is a noise ordinance in her city or county that can be enforced whether or not the HOA chooses to. She simply would need to give her neighbor a heads-up that she intends to swear out a warrant against them for a violation of the ordinance – very effective and surprisingly easy. And she won’t have to go to the trouble to file a lawsuit. – Debbi

• Aren’t there laws covering the property right to “quiet enjoyment” on the books in every city and state in the country? So couldn’t you just call the police on the neighbor and make a complaint? (After a calm discussion with the neighbor to resolve the conflict, of course.) – Roy

• First I was angry, then sad, upon reading the letter and your response. Nowhere is it acknowledged that an animal is being systematically brutalized; only the relatively petty concerns of the humans are recognized, while the daily suffering of the animal is trivialized by being ignored. For shame, sir! The first action should have been to call the SPCA, or any appropriate animal-advocacy group, to report an ongoing act of cruelty against a helpless animal. That act might have been sufficient in itself to solve the problem of the noisy dog. I don’t know why, at age 72, I am still surprised by human depravity, but I am. – Jerry

I welcome all comments from readers, both positive and negative.

Benny Kass is a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. No legal relationship is created by this column. Questions for this column can be submitted to benny@inman.com.

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