Last House Standing

What it’s like to be surrounded by foreclosures.

By Rebecca Webber
Photograph: Illustration by John Ritter

Denise Gibson-Franks, 50, Director, C.O.D.A. (Cleveland Ohio Dog Advocates).
"Five years ago, my husband and I considered selling our inner-city home to move to a more rural location. Then the foreclosure next door put a stop to that idea. Nobody wanted to live near that eyesore. Thieves broke in and stole everything of value, including the plumbing fixtures.

"Once, I went to pick up my husband, and when we got back 20 minutes later, the empty home’s large front window had been shattered. Things were even worse on the other side of me. The owner had all but abandoned the house, and kids broke in, plugged the drains and turned on every faucet, flooding the whole place. The water seeped into our yard. Then someone set the house on fire; the whole top was charred and gone.

"After the owner tore down the remains and cleaned up the lot, my husband and I paid him five grand for it, so it’s become a great garden and dog run. But now two more homes across the street are nightmare situations. Investors bought them for cheap, fixed them up just enough to rent them and haven’t done any maintenance since. The weeds grew about six feet before the city came and took care of them. Since I run an animal rescue organization, I’m trying to deal with the many pets that have been left behind. The decent people still keep their property up beautifully, but they have for sale signs posted. They all want to get out, but no houses are selling." 

Originally published in the July/August 2009 issue of MORE.

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