I read a story in the Arizona Republic last week with a headline that read, Foreclosure Home Strippers Can Face Arrest. And they should face arrest! After all, it’s bad enough that neighborhoods around the country are full of dilapidated homes with waist high weeds growing in front of them. Prices will be driven down even further with people taking their clothes off and dancing in front of these homes to loud, pulsating music.
That was a bad joke, but honestly that was the image that came to mind when I read the headline. All kidding aside, foreclosure stripping is a serious problem that hurts the homeowner, lender, investor and neighborhood. In most cases, the foreclosure stripper is the original homeowner. The homeowner, being understandably frustrated by the foreclosure, decides to take everything in the house, including ceiling fans, light fixtures, cabinet doors and drawers, door hardware, appliances, window coverings, garage door openers and faucets.
I’ve yet to hear about any kitchen sinks stolen. However, I toured a house yesterday that an investor partner of mine bought at the trustee’s sale. The former homeowner was so angry he even took the 9-volt batteries out of the smoke detectors! Of course, there are other types of foreclosure strippers (common thieves). They scope out vacant homes and return to steal copper wire and pipes, air conditioning units and cabinets.
The problem is that local law enforcement can’t really solve this problem. In the case of my investor friend, we called the police but there was nothing they could do. There was no way we could prove that those items were in the home at the time of the trustee’s sale when ownership legally changed. Nor could we prove that the original homeowner was the one who stole them. My friend is left to file a civil complaint against the former homeowner and hope for a favorable judgment. But, realistically he’ll never get a dime.
Once again, the lenders continue to shoot themselves in the foot. IF they would be more responsive to their borrowers, IF they would be more agreeable to a short sale or loan modification, IF they would start loaning money again, then maybe we’d have fewer vacant homes and frustrated homeowners.