Foreclosure Leaves Homes in Ruin

Merced, CA, USA Graffiti and garbage aren't the only things realtors now find when they enter foreclosed homes.

"Several times I've walked up and there's unsavory folks in the house who don't belong there, and it's frightening. It's dangerous," said Merced County Realtor Andy Krotik. That's why he said he's applying for a concealed weapons permit, and he's not alone. "I've got several colleagues who are also in the business that work with bank owned properties who either have their concealed weapons permit or are in the process of getting one, for the same reason, we all fear for our safety."

While more realtors are now armed with guns, most of the homes they handle are left with little protection. Susan Erb said this Los Banos home has been broken into seven times! "This once was a sliding glass door. You can see what's left of it," said Erb, "It didn't do any good to board it up. They just take it off and break it again."

That's why some banks are now switching from plywood patch jobs to solid metal security. "Because this house got some minor vandalism, the bank hired this company to secure it with this thick metal. I mean you cannot break a window or get into this house without having a special code," said Krotik.

This is the first steel-protected home Krotik has seen in Merced County. He said it clearly keeps thieves at bay, but he's hoping it won't scare away prospective buyers. "This certainly protects the investor, the bank's asset. But cosmetically, it's just scary. It looks like ft. Knox."

A national sales manager for vacant property security said the company is working on a decal that will make the metal doors and windows more aesthetically pleasing. But she argues they already look better than plywood, and they prevent the massive messes that are often left behind by the people who break-in. Neighbors agree the steel system is a good alternative. "It looks kind of like a prison, but I think it's a good thing that way people can't break the windows or break in, do graffiti and all that stuff, so it looks bad, but I think it's pretty good," said neighbor Samuel Cervantes.

Authorities said another key to keeping communities safe is for residents to report suspicious activity happening at foreclosed homes in their area. But until the houses are once again occupied, extreme security may become an even more popular option.


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