Performing An Initial Secure
Work Order

The first job you have at a recently vacated house is called an Initial Secure Work Order. Your job is to find out and report on the condition of the property, and to secure it, if you can. Some banks give you an allowable amount to secure the property. Other ask you to do the work, and then to invoice for the work that you have done. Others want to to just change a lock, perhaps post a notice, and then bid on everything else.

NOTE #1: Read what the work order says! Only do the work that the WO gives you the authority to do. If you do work that is not ordered, the bank will likely not pay for that work.

NOTE #2: Bid After The Fact — Some clients want you to go ahead and do the work and invoice for the work you've done. They call this "Bid After The Fact" (BATF). This is a great opportunity for you to make the Initial Secure WO even more profitable, however, your description and photos must justify the amount you are invoicing. If the you client thinks your invoice amount is too high, they will ask for additional justification for the amount you are charging. Learning to use a cost estimating tool, can be very helpful here.

A Word of Warning For An Initial Secure WO

Before you do any work you need to be sure of two things:
    • You’re at the right property
    • The property is indeed vacant

Most all contractors depend upon their computer or their GPS to locate a property. Please be aware that sometimes these resources are not entirely accurate.
We had one contractor that entered the correct address information into Google, but the address and map he was shown was missing one small detail: E. So he went to the wrong house, changed the lock on it, took pictures, performed and Initial Grass Cut, and two successive re-cuts, before the owners returned from wintering in Arizona.

Somehow they found out who had been in their home, and it cost the contractor $1,000 to settle with the homeowners. And, additionally, he, of course, was not paid for the work he did on the wrong house. So...make sure you're at the right property.

Always take a photo of the front of the house and a close-up of the house address. These photos are important for every WO, not just an Initial Secure. If you cannot find a house address, and you're sure you're at the right property, take photos of the house addresses on either side of the property. Occasionally, when there is no number on the house, I've taken photos of it on mailboxes, posted notices, and even mail inside the house. This can be a liability issue, so protect yourself with photo evidence.

The Scope Of An Initial Secure WO

Property securing for an Initial Secure WO may include:
    • Changing, or re-keying, the locks on one exterior door; make sure you note which door to re-key (click here for detailed info on performing a lock change)
    • Winterizing the property, in season (click here for detailed info on performing a winterization)
    • Performing an initial grass cut, in season (take 4-8 before photos, and the same number of after photos from exactly the same locations)
    • Turning off the water if there is a leak in the plumbing (this is just to prevent further damage; you can then bid to repair the damage)
    • Tarping a roof that has an active leak (bid or BATF)
    • Boarding a broken window or some other accessible opening (bid or BATF)
    • Removing hazardous materials (bid)
    • Moving exterior personal property to a secure location on the property (bid)
    • Removing all interior and exterior debris (on this initial visit to the property, provide separate bids for interior & exterior debris, exclusive of personals & hazardous)
    • Pumping water from a flooded basement or crawlspace (bid or BATF)
    • Posting a vacancy notice (don't forget this; if you don't do it, your client may tell you to return at your own expense to do it)

Even if the Initial Secure work order doesn’t give you instructions to do all of these things, you certainly want to report on them and provide bids to do them. In fact, in order to protect yourself from any liability for existing damages, you must take photos, and make bids or provide eyeball estimates for all damages.

Go out of your way to protect yourself! For example, if you suspect that there's mold, but are not 100% sure, you should take photos of the subject area, and bid something like this: It appears that there is mold growing in the bedroom (3' x 12'). Then name the cause: the probable cause is moisture in the air, mortgager neglect, broken downspout, clogged gutters, leaky pipe, ground water, roof leak, etc.

For a reminder on which photos to take and what order in which you should take them, click here.

After you're mastered the Initial Secure WO, learn how to do a Final Condition WO.