Gutting Foreclosed Homes, Down to the Kitchen Sink

By | December 21, 2008

Gutting Foreclosed Homes, Down to the Kitchen Sink

“… And what do they call it when an irate borrower abandons his home, yanking electrical outlets from walls, leaving faucets running and otherwise trashing it on the way out?

“Taking the inside of the house with you.” – nytimes

The kitchen cabinets were gone from the yellow, 1960s-era four-bedroom, two-bathroom house. So were ceiling fans, blinds, light switches, outlet covers, interior doors, closet doors, the toilet, a vanity, the stove and marble counters. The kitchen walls had jagged lines of marble tile, marking the perimeter where the cabinets once were. Gaps showed in the paint, inside and out, the job stopped in mid-refurbishment. The former owner had stripped the house and taken nearly everything with her.

“A normal person would say, ‘Oh, this is a disaster,'” Goland said. “I saw potential in it.”

This is the state of a home in a market flooded with foreclosures and angry homeowners desperate to squeeze the final pennies from their faulty investments. Agents selling homes for the banks — and buyers coming to look at them — have little idea what they’ll find when they open the front door, or if there will even be a door handle to turn when they get there.

It takes banks months to repossess and sell homes after owners stop making mortgage payments. In that time, some homes fall into natural disrepair. But a number of the foreclosures on the market deteriorate faster. Thieves snatch the copper piping or wiring to sell. And sometimes former owners strip the place of fixtures, hoping to sell them or to send a message to the bank.

“They’re taking everything,” said Sara Schwarzentraub, real estate appraiser and owner of Inter-State Appraisal Service. “Everything that’s not nailed down and some stuff that is nailed down.” …

Just because the house-gutting occurrence is common doesn’t mean it’s legal. A house is collateral on a mortgage, and a kitchen sink is intrinsic in that value, as is a working toilet and a stove.

“If you can detach it from the property without damaging the structure, and you put it in in the first place, then it’s a removable fixture,” said local real estate attorney William Markham of the firm Maldanado & Markham. Counted among permanent installations are things like granite countertops and wood floors. The dishwasher: “A closer call.”

And taking a hammer to the house before you leave just to spite the bank?

“If there’s willful destruction of property, that’s deliberate harm to the collateral,” Markham said. Banks can go after owners for breach of contract.

“The question is, if it’s a few thousand dollars, is it worth prosecuting people who probably have no money anyway?” Schwarzentraub said. . …  – vos

Foreclosed homes stripped of valuables

The majority of items that have been reported stolen from either foreclosed or vacant homes are air conditioners, cabinets, dishwashers, stoves and decorative ceiling fans. In one case, the Astroturf was torn out from a front lawn.

While there have been reports of random theft, in a majority of cases those culpable are homeowners trying to walk away from their foreclosed properties with as much as they can in order to make some money, Ortega said. – azc

2 thoughts on “Gutting Foreclosed Homes, Down to the Kitchen Sink

  1. Xeno Post author

    It is stressful, but yes, and thanks!

    If I have to have a foreclosure it will be because that is the best long term business decision. As long as I see the opportunity to purchase something better 5 to 7 years down the line when I’ve save up and repaired my credit, I’ll get through.

    Hoping the market price will come back up to and surpass the inflated price of 3 years ago is banking on another bubble, and I’m not going to do that.

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