Somewhat put out

Not that you’d remember after ten years, but my agent and I traipsed through ten properties before I decided to buy the eleventh, which is now of course the palatial estate at Surlywood. For the record, this is what I thought of the tenth:

This place was a foreclosure, and it had been suggested in earlier discussions that despite what you see on those TV infomercials, there’s not a lot of benefit to buying these things; apparently, once informed that they’re about to be dispossessed, the occupants avenge themselves by trashing the premises. It was certainly the case here: non-functional appliances were scattered about, the window treatments were more trick than treat, and someone had made off with a couple of downspouts, fercrissake. This will be a beautiful home for someone someday — provided that someone is willing to spend half again the purchase price to restore its dignity. I’m not.

Have things improved in the last decade? Of course not:

When people have little incentive to behave well, and when nobody is watching, what do people do? The last few years have given us millions of opportunities to answer that question as people living in foreclosed homes decided whether to leave those homes in decent condition or to instead pour concrete down the drain.

Warren Meyer notes at Coyote Blog:

These folks are lucky to live in the US — we have the most lenient home mortgage system in the world. Very, very few other countries in the world have no-recourse mortgages where one can walk away only with a ding on their credit record, without even a personal bankruptcy. Almost anyplace else, they would be facing years of garnishments for whatever losses on the loan the bank had after they sold the home.

One could argue, I suppose, that a system that would lend me money is too lenient by definition. Still, despite qualifications that could fairly have been described as marginal, I got the loan, and I’ve never come close to foreclosure; I’ve never even been stuck with a late charge.


  1. Teresa »

    29 March 2013 · 5:31 pm

    So far we have managed to pay our various mortgages (3 houses) without a problem. This might always change I suppose. However, I could never leave a house damaged. Just couldn’t do it.

    I still remember the mess that was left in our first house when we actually bought it from someone… it was not a forclosure. Holy crap! It took me four hours just to clean the refrigerator. I would never want anyone thinking about me 30 years later and remembering what an utter slob and waste of space I was. Ha.

  2. Teresa »

    29 March 2013 · 5:31 pm

    I should say – it was 3 houses one after the other… not all at the same time. ;)

  3. Jeffro »

    29 March 2013 · 7:23 pm

    People destroy cars that are going to be repossessed, too. Years ago, I needed a car fast and wanted a Trans Am. My buddy and I went to the nearest big market – Wichita, and started on south Broadway, where the “we tote the note” guys are.

    We ran across a formerly pretty blue Turbo model (V6, alas) that literally had cigarette burns in ever couple square inches in the interior. Everywhere. Headliner, seats, seat belts, vertical post trim, console, rear deck lid, speaker covers, dash – you name it, if it would burn, it had a cigarette mark on it. I’d bet it took a carton’s worth just to destroy it that completely.

    And when fired up, a large distinctly blue cloud rose from the tailpipes. No telling what they did to that motor.

    The car lot had a bunch of writing on the windshield explaining what the NADA value was and asked us to make an offer. We told ’em they couldn’t pay us enough – that was our best offer. That wasn’t the first time the salesman had heard that.

    I was pretty dismayed finding that car, since I thought it was unnecessary torture for the poor thing. I found much the same thing when I looked for the ‘Vette I ended up buying a few years later. I couldn’t believe that people would treat cars that way, nor that someone would actually try to sell them in that condition. “Vettes were a bit different in that the car lots seemed to think the name was worth a premium regardless of condition. Trashed is trashed, AFAIAC.

  4. Tatyana »

    30 March 2013 · 6:44 am

    A&E network has a show (can’t find it in online programming now, and don’t remember the name) that I came across, about a RE flippers, I think, in Arizona or Nevada – somewhere warm. Several of them bid in auctions of foreclosed homes; the condition of sale is that a prospective buyer has to judge only from outside. The climactic moment in the show comes when the winner in the auction gets the keys and opens the door of his new property – and usually finds what is described above – and worse.
    Sometimes MUCH worse.
    There was a house I recall – rather attractive from the outside, clean exterior, above-average landscaping, roof on several heights (suggesting interesting architectural volumes inside). Then the buyer went in…walls are smeared with buckets of paint, glass mosaic accent in the kitchen is smashed with a hammer, cabinets are missing the doors, no faucets, there is no pipe under the sink, carpets are pissed on, two windows to interior patio were intentionally taped open and now the rooms are strewn with debris and damage from elements, etc etc.

    It’s like people take their anger and frustration with their financial circumstance on their former home. On the hand – it could be worse; they could have taken it on living breathing people.

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