Foreclosure horror stories

REO brokers reveal the worst they’ve seen


 Christopher Burdzy had walked his clients through almost all of a bank-owned single-family home in Staten Island when they decided to peek inside the basement garage.

“This is a bad house! Do not buy it!” read black spray paint on the walls.

“That was kind of spooky,” recalled Burdzy, a broker with Staten Island-based Leader Properties, though he wasn’t shocked. Borrowers facing foreclosure will often go to great lengths to prevent new buyers from snatching up their homes, in the hopes that they can buy them back once they hit the market at a discounted price, he said, and he suspects that’s what happened there.

In other cases, it’s just spite. Take the former owners of Ken MacBride’s Prospect Heights listing, a brownstone with loads of original detail — stained glass, inlaid bookcases, wainscot and marble fireplaces. It’s been 10 years, but MacBride, director of REO marketing at Brooklyn’s Fillmore Real Estate, still remembers that property as “exquisite.”

After a failed short sale, the bank moved ahead with eviction proceedings, but decided against investing in 24-hour security while the occupants were evicted, as MacBride had suggested.

Big mistake. “You name it, they took it,” MacBride said. Though charges were never filed, he said he believes “they basically took everything with them that wasn’t nailed down.”

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Stories like these are a dime a dozen among REO brokers, and not just in New York City. Some are dramatic, like the reports of foreclosure-motivated arson that surfaced in cities nationwide as the subprime bust took hold.

Others, like the home Burdzy recently noticed had missing switch blades on all of its electrical outlets, are less shocking but perhaps more telling.

The mentality is: “If I can’t have it, nobody will,” explained Diallo Stevens, a broker at Century 21 Best, in Queens.

Still, it’s easy to sympathize. “People find themselves in a situation where they’re up against the world,” Burdzy explained. “They probably blame the lender or the mortgage brokers. It’s definitely not pretty losing a house.”

Nor is it pretty evicting a tenant who’s contributing to the problem. One of Stevens’ former clients had been missing mortgage payments on his two-story East New York home, in part because a Section 8 tenant on the second floor had stopped paying rent. After the owner moved to start eviction proceedings to avoid foreclosure, he came home one day to discover that concrete had been poured down the pipes. Stevens’ client eventually filed for bankruptcy.

For REO brokers, it’s all in a day’s work.

“Most realtors have got a clipboard and maybe an umbrella in the back of their car. Me? I’ve got bolt cutters, duct tape, Pylox, padlocks and chains,” MacBride said. “No two days are ever alike in REO.”