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July 31, 2009


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It's a combination of frustration and a manifestation of the primal urge to "mark your territory." A final chance to exercise control over a situation over which you really don't have any.

"does a good, decent, person do something like this?"


What a shame. It's an example of the too-common entitlement mentality in this country. People think the bank is taking away their home, but they don't stop to think about their deadbeat ways, and how it hurts the bank's ability to pay their employees.

I'm with MelMoitzen - a good, decent person does not do that.

It's a good example of this country's entitlement philosophy. He probably felt deserved the house so when the bank kicked him out he took matters into his own hands. I have a few rental properties and have seen this first-hand. It is amazing how people treat things when they think they're not getting what they deserve.

Yeah, we looked at a couple foreclosures when we were looking to buy our first home - we've done some "handiwork" before, so I felt it'd be a good opportunity to do that while still having a place to rent (we were able to afford the dual payments)...

A couple of the foreclosures; the houses were in good enough shape, but the location and size and other contributing factors just didn't work. The last one we looked at...not at all unlike the situation you describe, except that they also had a full yard sale worth of junk in the garage. The house would've taken what I'd guess to be $20,000 of work plus a couple months of sweat equity to fix up, and it sold (somehow) for $100K - in this area, $120K can get you a very nice house in town (we later bought a very nice place that needed solely some aesthetic work inside for $130K).

We later learned that the house needed even more work - the entire plumbing system was trashed, as was the entire heating/cooling system...and the foundation had a couple cracks that weren't due to settling (no, it appears a sledgehammer in the basement was the culprit). Couple that with the black paint everywhere (the previous owners were apparently Gothic) and the bedroom whose walls and ceiling were non-stop mirrors, and I really don't know why my wife decided I needed to see the house after she did.

Because many people are farm animals when they can get away with it - look at public washrooms, the house thing is just a step up. We've had a garbage strike here in Toronto for the last month or so (ended today) and you would be staggered at some of the well to do looking people I've seen dumping bags of rubbish in the street and even in one memorable case a housewife type woman throwing big black bags of garbage in the park, in full view.

I've spent a lot of time working for Habitat for Humanity over the years, and I have cleaned up more than my fair share of vacated houses. There's nothing more depressing than a house (a house, mind you, that the previous inhabitants helped to build with their own hands) ripped apart and rendered useless. I've seen walls completely destroyed, carpet ripped to shreds, kitchens used as restrooms after the water had been turned off - you'd think that people would be above that.

They aren't.

My guess is people do this because they don't want to take responsibility for their own actions and accept the consequences of those actions (when they are negative) as a result. Easier to blame someone else, get angry about it and then exact your "revenge" than it is to own up to the fact that the responsibility really lies within yourself.

"Blame someone else!" has almost become the new American motto.

The really sad part about this story to me is that the person(s) who did this didn't learn anything from the situation. They probably feel smug about the "revenge" they exacted -- in their minds they are the righteous ones. They are also very likely to make the same mistake again, possibly suffering similar consequences.

You can describe trash in many ways but it's still trash.

That former occupant apparently also hasn't figured out that acting on that anger only prolongs it, with little discernable effect on the paper pushers at Fannie Mae. It's just like the people that yell and honk and get all wound up at bad drivers. That only makes you and your passengers upset and uncomfortable. The other drivers can't hear your "suggestions" to improve your technique, and I doubt an angry honk ever made a single idiot smarter. But the honker will probably still be mad and miserable at the end of the trip, while the person that says "Man, that was close!" (no honk, no yell) is over it in seconds and isn't still stewing about it an hour later.

That former homeowner will probably be resentful about the foreclosure for years. Too bad, because that bitterness bleeds through in things like personal and professional situations (including job interviews). It could hold him back and keep him miserable for the rest of his days. As he sits and wonders why all this "bad luck" just keeps happening to him, he'll never realize that it's not what others "do to him" that's keeping him down. It's how he reacts to those things determining his fate - something which he could have controlled.

Perhaps lenders should create a public database with individual borrower notes. My guess is this person will not be in a position to buy another home for the foreseeable future, but when they do I think it's fair for potential lenders (big banks or not) to know what type of investment they're making.

In the past, property destruction like this was seen by landlords when evicting tenents. A landlord usually can avoid these individuals by pulling credit reports and checking references for the prospective renters. Folks who act this way are easy to spot if you research their employment and housing history, it's a recurring thread throughout their lives when something does not go their way.

The recent availability of 'voodoo' loans encouraged a sizeable number of these immature folks to become homeowners. The current fall of these loans is exposing this less-than-desirable behavior by these scumbags to the general public.

I heard somewhere (possibly on the web, so take it for what it's worth) that people actually have "trasher" parties at their homes after they've been foreclosed. They invite all of their friends to come over and do what they will to destroy the place.

My question is: Who showed you this property in this condition?! I guess the bank doesn't have much of a choice to show it as is; they've already lost money on the deal. They probably decided not to pump in the $20K to make it presentable.

Jeff --

My agent showed it to us. She was told by the other agent that it was "rough", but not really told the extent of the problem.

I don't think $20k could solve this home's problems. Who wants a home potentially filled with mold? I'm guessing they may get a fraction of the home's original value simply based on the land (which wasn't that great either), but not much else.

I'm sure a lot of the physical damage was done by the foreclosed owner, however, things like the mold can be a product of the home being vacant.

REO (bank owned) properties are often left w/o being maintained. I looked at a bank owned property in the spring that had serious water damage in the basement. The bank never winterized the home. The heat was off so the pipes froze and burst.

What I don't understand is why the banks don't manage these properties this case, and I'm sure others, it cost them more in fixing the problem and lost value on the property than it would have cost to manage the asset properly.

Yeah, I've read many examples like these, and they seem to always point to people who believe it's not there fault they couldn't pay because the bank or the government wrong them somehow. And as such, eviction was merely part of this government or institutional oppression that they feel the need to exact their revenge in these manners.

Ignorance isn't bliss.

I have been buying forclosed properties for over a year.

In my view, the comments here are all correct. In many cases the previous "owner" was just an upgraded trouble case renter who then showed his true colors. There is always a percentage of society who are basically just scum. That number is higher than you might think and in the last few years banks gave them way more money than they have ever had their hands on and allowed them to temporarly manage a very valuable asset. Then when it was clear these people had no ability to actually own this asset they tried to take it back and the scum behaved the way they always have.

Then in addition, as John Z said, the banks don't know the first thing about managing these assets (not that they seem to know much about managing money assets either) and thus they don't do the basic things to maintain a vacant home and the most common problem is burst pipes, huge water damage and rampant mold everywhere.

In the end I have no sympathy for any of them. No one should be surprised what happens when you give value to scum, it gets destroyed.

The next wave of forclosures that are starting now are mostly from people losing their jobs. I expect to have much lower incidence of destroyed property from these people because these are normal borrowers instead of the high percent of scum that borrowed on 3% loans that lost them when they reset to 6%. However, the banks will still be stupid and fail to manage these properties correctly so water damage is likely to occur at the same rates.

We just bought a home that didn't have abusive damage, but negligent damage. While I think negligence shouldn't exact as much of a price on someone's character as abuse, the cost to use will be the same.

Not cleaning rain gutters, not doing the basement walls to code (vapor barrier installed incorrectly) and not fixing small leaks resulted in moldy basement walls and carpets.

Not painting or staining the deck means that we need to replace it next year instead of in 4 or 5 years.

Not keeping the sump pump plugged in means that it has now corroded to the point that it doesn't work and needs to be replaced.

Not drywalling a wall correctly means that there are large uneven bumps in the wall which detract from the kitchen's appearance.

Even though the home wasn't trashed, the previous owners still left a huge project behind when they left.

I believe in cases like the one described, you can begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together. These people are irresponsible, stupid and lack character. I'm sure their lives were a wreck prior to purchasing a home and most likely these people have not taken care of their business or possesions in the past. It is a culmination of failure, lack of respect and refusal to take responsibility for their own decisions and actions. Consider the source.

Put those people in jail

It sounds like a combination of negligence and perhaps some willful damage. Houses need care, if exposed to the elements they can fall apart quickly. My guess is that a water pipe froze and broke and got a lot of water in the rooms, and this caused the mold. Pretty nasty but without care houses do fall apart.

Sadly the place will need to be completely gutted.

As for people who have 'trashing parties', this is what happens if you can walk away with no recourse other than the collateral of the home. Our tax dollars are going into bailing these messes out, whether we agree or not.

Ok, somewhat related but kind of random. When I was a Freshman in college we lived in an old, university owned apartmetn that was going to be completely renovated the summer after we moved out. We could trash the place without any reprimand. It was great fun hitting the sheetrock with sledgehammers and painting the appliances with neon spray paint.... really destructive but fun in a releasing kind of way, at least for a 17 year old kid. It was unbridled joy, nobody was getting hurt, no consequences. I guess the people who trash the house must feel a bit of those powerful feelings, until the fact they left the mess for someone else catches up with them.


The mold / fungus is undoubtedly a result of neglect of the property by the bank.

The people are angry and they vent their anger at the home. I assume in their mind they are taking some sort of revenge on the bank or whatever. The property damage reduces the value of the home and does reduce the banks profits. Its wrong to do of course. Most people don't readily take responsibility for their own mistakes. On the other hand the bank probably should never have lent them the money in the first place but I doubt the bank will take any responsibility for that either.

Because trash is more infectious than class.

"The mold / fungus is undoubtedly a result of neglect of the property by the bank."

Perhaps the gutters, but one of the leaks had been going on long enough to eat through an old cement wash basin, and the vapor barrier certainly wasn't put there by the bank.

Lots of people will do most anything,
especially if they think (or know)
they can get way with it.

I'm guessing this problem is associated overwhelmingly with subprime mortgages, with foreclosed borrowers holding a grudge against a lender who they think soaked them, thereby setting up the borrower's default when financial bumps occured.

I looked at a house the other day that was a forcloseure. It was in pretty bad shape and smelled bad. We went into the kitchen and there was a dead bird in the middle of the floor. Why don't banks at least have the agent look at the house. No one is going to buy a house with dead animals in it.

Twenty years ago, my husband became so ill that he lost his job. We did have the opportunity to buy disability insurance to cover the mortgage, but we were young and didn't think that we needed to pay out the money for it. Within a year of my husband's illness, our house was foreclosed on. We simply could not make the payments. All our savings were gone, his job was gone, and we lost our house. We did find another house (two small cabins put together to make a small house about 350 miles away) and a landowner who took a chance on us. We still live on the property, in a bigger house, so everything worked out fine. However, I still remember how embarrassed I was when we lost our house. And I insisted that we leave that house like we left our first house and our apartment, clean. The broom and vacuum cleaner were the last things packed. I may have lost everything of material value, but I still had my children, my husband, and my self-respect. There is absolutely no reason to leave a house in any condition but clean.

My wife and I are in negotiations on a house right now where this happened. It doesn't appear to be quite as bad as the one you looked at...but they ripped all of the lighting fixtures and mirrors off the wall. They also took the hardware from the kitchen cabinets. I guess they took it to sell, maybe?

On the plus side...we might be able to get a really good deal out of the whole situation!

I'll go against the general opinion and say this: It is also possible that the former owners didn't cause the damage.
In my city (which has had lots of foreclosures) thieves have broken into vacant homes and ripped out anything they can sell .. especially metal. Houses that stay vacant long enough can also attract squatters.
I wounder this house you looked at is going to end up condemned .. whether the bank will pay to have it torn down, or the city is probably a toss-up.

As a part of our human nature it is easy for us to demonize the other in our assessment of their actions. But it is imperative for us to recognize and affirm that the same sin in the individual who actuated this destruction is in each of us. We do not want to provide anyone the opportunity to view themselves as a victim of their own actions, but rather the individual who made a choice. The individual(s) who actuated this destruction made a choice, in response to someones best they chose to give their worst. We all have it within us to do the same thing, but they made the choice, and for that choice they should be punished dearly.

I agree with DW; I don't know how you can tell whether the place was trashed by the last occupants or by vandals, squatters, and thieves. Copper piping, for instance, can be resold easily and is very commonly stripped out of vacant homes. Seems like you'd want to know that before you labelled the last owners "scum," no?

Also, while it wouldn't justify the behavior, the last occupants could have been victims of out-and-out mortgage fraud. You wouldn't believe how much of that there was, and it does frequently involve a dupe "straw buyer" who may have no idea what transaction just went on. It would be more understandable in that context, though still not okay.

Jeff said: "I heard somewhere that people actually have "trasher" parties at their homes after they've been foreclosed. They invite all of their friends to come over and do what they will to destroy the place."

Going to such a party seems like a great way to expose yourself to financial risk. Anyone who participated in property destruction has put themselves in position to be sued by the bank. All it takes is one person posting some pics to facebook...

Any given incidence could be vandals. However in most cases you can tell. Vandals would either just trash the house for fun or they would seek only the truly valuable things. Vandals don't take down old light fixtures (they are worthless). Vandals don't take used water faucets (also useless). I have seen those and many other things that tell you it's the home owner and it's probably out of spite.

I have to say Sarah, I don't understand your desire to stand up and defend human nature at every turn. Humans are not so great. They have it in them to be great or horrible. It's easy to give in to the horrible. This has been known for milenia and the various authors of the Bible referenced it many times as well: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jer 17:9

There are more than enough home owners to give into their deceitful and wicked hearts and trash a house for any number of unjustifiable reasons.

It is not surprising to me that some foreclosures get trashed by their former occupants. Some people are just (to put it kindly) amazing slobs.

Even some homes for sale that are *not* foreclosures sometimes are filthy and shockingly poorly maintained. Roof/ceiling water damage and basement water leaks that have just been let to sit there for years, water damaged kitchen cabinets and floors (because the sink leaked and they didn't bother to fix it), holes in drywall, interior doors missing, broken windows and light fixtures, carpets stained and soaked with pet waste and urine, hardwood floors deeply scratched and soaked with motor oil, landscaping full of dead plants, etc.

Some people are just clueless about the idea that if you have a house you need to maintain it.

Since this is a financial forum, I will speak from an investors point of view. I love looking at a house with things like you mentioned, because the owner occupants will be scared off, and the price will continue to go down. The types of things you mentioned can all be fixed, if the price is low enough. Even the majority of mold cases are fixed getting rid of the moisture source, replacing ruined carpet or drywall(not real expensive), and putting bleach on the rest. Only the worst toxic mold requires a major treatment.
Most owner occupants either don't want to deal with the fixes, or don't have the cash. There are Federal programs now that will finance the purchase price and fix up costs, it is something like 203k program. Georgia also has a program that pays $14k to owner occupants that purchase foreclosures, in addition to the $8k Federal program. Dealing with contractors is a real pain, but the financial payoff can be great.

As for the foreclosures, HUD is very good about taking care of properties. The bank REO's are much worse. They have been so reluctant to cut prices and take their losses, that the properties sit for over a year fairly often. In that much time, they almost surely will be vandalized or damaged by weather. They turn the listings over many times to rookie real estate agents who just put them in MLS, nothing else. They don't show them, maybe put the lockbox on, though many times not, or visit them. So they don't know or don't care if there is damage.

The bank loss mitigators making the decisions on whether to take an offer or short sale, don't see the property and how much it is declining. It is just numbers on a page. They don't realize how much it is losing value over time.

Apex, it's not that I have so much confidence in human nature (I don't), as that I think Christians would be very well-advised to have at the top of their minds at all times another Biblical quote: "Judge not, lest ye be judged." Or, if you prefer, "None are righteous; no, not one." Who do you think you are in the eyes of God, that you can call some of his children "scum?"

Sarah --

I think the point Apex was making is that you're consistently making excuses for people's poor behavior -- regardless of what they do. Certainly you'll agree that we have to "judge" at some point, don't we? What about those who steal and those who murder? Are we not to "judge" them and hold them guilty for crimes? Or should we blame someone or something else -- society, their parents, a bad breakfast, etc. -- and let people get away with all sorts of poor behavior?

In addition, you regularly take Bible passages either out of context or individually without relation to other verses that would moderate/add perspective to them, which is an interpretation no-no by almost any biblical scholar I know. I know you're a smart person so I'm guessing you do this to purposefully twist the Bible's meaning to make your point, something that's never going to win over anyone to your line of thinking.

The type of homo sapien who did that normally would not have qualified for the loan. Maybe he wanted and didn't get the $5000 banks were offering organisms of similar construct in Las Vegas NOT to trash 'their' homes. Now that loans are difficult to come by and the government is desperately trying to reinflate house prices, these quasi-humans will stay under their rocks (which are, blessedly, far from my home).

FMF, there is a significant difference between enforcing civil order--which must be done for the benefit of all--and deciding that other people are "scum," or subhuman, or deserving only of our contempt and not of our compassion.

As for my Biblical quotes, well, I find this complaint a little bit ironic considering that the top post on your blog right now is a recommendation for/link to a list of Biblical quotes without context. I am obviously not going to write an extended Biblical exegesis in a blog comment on a personal-finance blog. If you feel that I've taken something out of context in a way that is distorting, I'm always happy to discuss it. I am aware that many Christians feel that their Christianity is a license to despise others; I believe the tradition I was brought up in, which emphasizes Christ's love for all humankind and his special care for those most despised in our society, is actually more Biblically grounded. Regardless, whenever I see someone quoting the Bible in defense of calling other people "scum," I know they are well off the path of loving their neighbors as themselves, which (along with the love of God) is the whole of the law. I do not adhere to the beliefs I was brought up in any more, but it breaks my heart to see them perverted so that other people can feel God is with them in their hatred.


I think you should reconsider FMF's points again and reflect back not only on this thread but others.

Yes, we should show and demonstrate love and understanding, but that is not a free ticket to being a doormat or calling out injustice in whatever form it takes.

Sarah --

This person destroyed property that didn't belong to him. Isn't that a crime? If so, why do you excuse the actions with a mortgage fraud claim? Where did that come from? I can tell you -- you made it up as a divesrion to excuse inexcusable behavior. Do you really think mortgage fraud is more likely than them simply getting in over their heads and then trashing the place? I don't think so.

That's the main issue I have with your comment (and others you've left here.) It seems like you can come up with an excuse that absolves almost anyone of anything. What ever happened to personal responsibility? Oh yeah, it went away when political correctness showed up on the scene.

As far as the Bible and being used to call someone scum, re-read the thoughts above -- they are two separate comments. Yes, they are from the same person, but I don't see the Bible being used to justify the term "scum" -- just to say that people do do bad things (which I agree with. You, on the other hand, seem to think that no one does anything incorrectly.)

Finally, regarding my post, it actually points to a gazillion Bible passages that are sorted by topic to ADD context and completeness.

Concerning Scum:

I tend to be blunt. Probably not a surprise if you have read my posts. By calling people scum what I am referring to is people who consistently exhibit scummy behavior. I do not consider them sub-human or undeserving of our or God's love.

However, being deserving of love is not the same as being given a pass for unacceptible behavior or absolving one of responsibility, punishment, and yes judgement of one's actions.

When people violate laws of society, laws of nature, laws of God, we can and must judge them. And the Bible supports that. That's why there is a general code of expected behavior that is laid out throughout the book. In fact there are specific sections in it about what to do with a member of the church who has fallen under sin ... approach him privately first, if that fails, bring him before the elders second, and finally kick him out third if he won't change. So yes, we can and must judge, the Bible actually requires it.

So while I applied the term scum to the person rather than just his/her behavior, I think it is approporiate when the person is the type of individual who has given themselves over to consistently exhibiting that type of behavior. In fact the Bible consistently refers to evil men. Not just their behavior. When someone does something consistently it's not just what they do, it has become who they are.

My thesis in my first comment was that a large number of these people are the types of people who have shown themselves to not be worthy of being trusted to own homes in the past and those were the first people to lose their house in this down turn and they are a much higher percentage of the people doing the trashing.

That is the context in which I used the term. It's a little harsh, but I think its mostly accurate.

One point I haven't seen raised here yet is the negligence on the part of the bank. That much mold doesn't grow overnight. I'm happy to concede the point that the foreclosed-upon previous owner was wrong to trash the place. But why not send some sort of bank representative (or the listing agent) to walk through the property just after the eviction and make sure it's in a state that it could be left alone for a while? Turn off the main water valve, drain the pipes, make sure the fridge is empty, lock all the windows, and make sure there's no wet carpeting.

I don't know why the bank didn't do that, but when I was shopping for short sales and foreclosures a year ago, it was a pattern I saw again and again. The banks all too often are not good stewards of the property they foreclose upon.

A mold problem that bad can be very expensive to clean up. I had an issue recently where a toilet overflowed while I was on vacation. I had turned off the water, but it was an old valve and didn't seal completely, which I learned the hard way. Even though hardly any mold had started to grow, it cost nearly $5000 for SERV-PRO to come out and clean up and dry out my house. That doesn't even count repairing the drywall and putting in new flooring. When it's all said and done, it will cost close to $15,000. I've heard of cases where basements flooded more extensively, and it cost well over $100,000 to get whole again.

In any case, advise the listing agent that no one should go back in that house without biohazard gear.

I am a Realtor who has seen plenty of the same type of actions in foreclosure homes. I have even been made aware of a multiple offender in the same small town. The bad news: the house is Nearly unsalvagable. The good news: there are several ways to eliminate all the mold in that house including the mushroom farm.

I got into black mold problems due to health concerns with my family, so I then took what I knew and began helping people with mold problems.

I have only one thing to say about the people who destroy homes that they are evicted from and that is the banks should prosecute. The people who found themselves in financial distress are not alone and to destroy huge assets (like a home) should land them in jail for a while.

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