Foreclosure Rage

November 21, 2008 1:00:59 AM PST
The foreclosure crisis has left thousands of homes throughout the central valley in ruins. Some are destroyed by vandals, others by frustrated former owners.Broken windows, stolen appliances, and massive piles of trash have become disturbingly common in the wake of the foreclosure crisis. "This sadly is pretty characteristic of an abandoned home," said Krotik.

Merced County Realtor Andy Krotik says the destruction often comes at the hands of vandals who cover walls in graffiti and take anything that can be pried off or chiseled away.

Krotik said, "Vacant homes attract a criminal element and people who are up to no good." Krotik says in some cases drug addicts have left syringes and even piles of vomit on the floors. But it's not just transients and gang members doing the damage. Many former homeowners are taking out their foreclosure rage on their own properties.

Milpitas Resident James Williams said, "I'm out of money, out of time, had to get out of here."

James Williams trashed this Bay Area home, leaving obscene messages for the bank and a mess so disgusting that some of it cannot be shown on TV. The ransacked Milpitas property may be one of the worst, but Valley cleaning crews also see their fair share of filth left behind by frustrated owners.

Emmanuel Ortiz said, "They throw concrete in the toilets, they get backed up. One house we went to, they took a sledgehammer to every wall in the room."

One homeowner in Fresno's affluent Fig Garden neighborhood even painted his brick home pink! Jeff Baird said, "I'm making a statement because I've tried repeatedly to contact the bank and the bank won't do anything." Neighbor Clem Renzi said, "I see disaster. It's absolutely a shame because that brick had a very historic value to it in its color."

Merced County Realtor Shiela Splitt deals with dozens of foreclosed homes at a time and documents the damage for asset managers. "We try to make an evaluation and a list of all the property that's in the home and post an 18 day notice so the former owner has ample time to come back and pick it up," said Splitt.

When the mess that's left is still overwhelming, the banks may cover some of the clean-up cost. The bank that owns this home paid nearly 3000 dollars to make repairs, but just one week later, there are new holes in the wall and graffiti in every single room. So now that bank is passing the buck to the next buyer.

Krotik said, "The bank has decided they're just going to give the buyer a credit to do it after the buyer is here."

Realtors say it's often future homeowners who are left to deal with the damage. But some end up buying the homes for half their original value which is one reason foreclosed homes are starting to sell. "Actually 2008 buyers re-entered the market, the inventory has dropped slightly. We've sold many foreclosures," said Splitt.

But of course, the goal is to get them off the market before they're damaged by sledgehammers and spray cans.

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