The Average American Bugout
This will be a little bit different than my other business related articles, but goes in line to a point with everything I talk about.
As I’ve explained before plenty of times, I do quite a bit of work in my area (central Ohio) for large and mid sized banks. Most of what I do is called ‘recon’ for banks , I go out and take pictures of properties they have in their lending portfolios and tell them how much it’s worth. In addition to that, I go out and valuate homes for PMI reduction purposes, and homes that are in foreclosure ( BPOs ) to tell the bank if the home is in good/bad condition and the market value they’ll get by selling it as a foreclosure.
Outside of working with banks, I’ve worked on every level regarding distressed property sales, from the owner who can’t afford a mortgage anymore (I’ve walked them through a short sale), to the other side of the coin , working with on a eviction , and repossession of a property. I find the whole process very interesting, and have heard just about every story possible out there regarding foreclosures, in fact a while ago I ran one of the largest foreclosure blogs out there.
One of the most interesting things that I deal with is the end stages of foreclosure, after the bank wins the property back at auction, it sets a series of events in motion that I get to deal with. In the state of Ohio , normally the homeowner has 30 days to vacate the property from the time of the sheriff’s sale, and after that time, the bank will take physical possession of the property.
Now, as simple as this seems, it’s a very complex process on the bank’s end, usually involving a multitude of lawyers, real estate agents and some times law enforcement officers. What interests me is the sheer number of people who either don’t realize they’re loosing their home , or continue to believe they will not lose their home after not making payments for months or even years. See, I’ve seen situations where the homeowner hasn’t made payments on their home for well over a year, the bank files for foreclosure, sells the property at a sheriff’s sale , then the local sheriff shows up one day to evict them. By evict them , I really mean escort them off the premise of what used to be their home.
Most law enforcement officers I’ve delt with are quite nice about everything, however there have been instances where the homeowner has literally a hour to vacate the home. I’ve been in properties shortly after the eviction where food was still sitting on the stove (obviously the burners were off) as well as bowls of cereal on the dining room table (with food even). It gives me quite a eerie feeling when I enter a home like that to take pictures. I almost feel like I’m in the setting of a zombie movie, one of those type where the guy walks around the city and no one is there ,every home being vacant and frozen in time.
In these situations, I find it quite interesting to see what the ‘Average’ person takes with them , the things they feel are worth the most to them. The reason I’m also posting this is that these people are effectively in emergency situations and make some serious mistakes in the things they don’t take with them.
#1 – Cash
In general, in the homes I’ve been in have been devoid of all cash. This isn’t to say they take all currency with them, as almost every single home I visit has quite a great deal of loose change all over the house. It seems to me that alot of people don’t know where they keep money, or just keep it on them. I’ve been in one or two homes where the owner had saved an amount of change in a jar or box and just left it (maybe $20-$30).
#2 – TVs
The absolute second thing I don’t see in homes are decent TVs. It was a tough choice picking between this and cash, every single home that I’ve been in that has a nice TV has been removed. Granted, they could be stolen from the home after the bank/sheriff locks the home out, however they’re almost always gone if they’re nice. I’ve run into a few homes that have older TVs or rear projection TVs that are still there, but they’re quite obviously worthless. One thing I’ve noticed is that they will usually leave the HDTV’s stand there. It’s a bit interesting because the cost of many of those stands are quite high.
#3 – Guns
I have YET to see a home where anyone has left any sort of firearm in it, from what I can tell these have a HUGE value to people (which to me should be obvious). The only reason this isn’t #1 is because it’s hard for me to estimate how many of the homes I work with have firearms in them. I know in general in my area, roughly 50% of the homes have firearms, but I’ve never seen one left in a house. I’ve seen a few gun cases, and even a small unlocked gun safe (which by itself was worth $100-$200). I know for myself personally, firearms would be the first thing I’d take if I had to leave in a emergency.
#4 – Computers
Most of the homes I’ve done work in have obviously had computers in them at one time, most of the time I can find work areas with computer manuals but not computers. Interestingly enough, I’ve been in some homes where the homeowner was in such a rush , they just pulled off all the cables from the case and took the case with them. I’ve seen a few LCD monitors (easily $75 or so) left , and a TON of old-style tube monitors.
#5 – Primary vehicles
It should be pretty obvious that most people have a decent vehicle, and normally they use it to haul off all of their junk. Interestingly enough , one time I saw a rather nice one-axel trailer that someone left behind with tags. I really can’t imagine why someone would leave something like that but they did.
Now , those are the top 5 things I’ve noticed people seem to value when they have to leave the house, I think most of use would say ‘Yeah , I guess those are important’. However to me is the glaring issue with what people chose to leave behind in their homes. These are not in order of commonality , however they’re in the order of what I would consider important if I had to leave my home and didn’t know where I’d be going to.
#1 Financial documents
I don’t want to get into the gory details due to people that like to steal identities, but there is not a single personal document that I’ve not run into inside a foreclosed home. Check books , atm cards , some credit cards, birth certificates, social security statements and everything like that. In addition to this, I see ALOT of homes where family portraits , pictures and letters are left as well. Obviously these aren’t absolutely vital or carry the risk of ID theft, but it bothers me a bit that people generally don’t care about pictures.
#2 – Secondary vehicles
Most people seem to not value vehicles, even if they’re in decent shape but have some sort of issue that keeps them from running. The best car I’ve seen at a foreclosure was a late 90s dodge intrepid. I know that’s not the bee’s knees but it has to be worth something even if was without engine (I didn’t check). I also ran into a pretty decent looking mid 80s camaro at a house too. Another property I was dealing with had about a 2000 F150 truck , it had sat there for over 2 years, I was told that ‘something’ didn’t work in it, but have no clue.
#3 – Food
This is one of the top things people leave at homes , sadly I run into alot of homes that have perishables that are left in the fridge/counter that are far beyond spoiled when i get to the house. I’m pretty sure they leave it there on purpose for the bank and people like me , however I find more non-perishables in houses left lying around. I’ve found pantries with a good month’s worth of food. I know that if I didn’t know where I was going , food would be one of my top priorities.
#4 – Porn
I don’t know what it is with foreclosures and porn , but the majority of homes I visit have quite a collection of porn mags in them. By quite a collection I mean one house I was in had 4 stacks of magazines that were about 3ft tall each. I’d leave them there too I guess if I had to leave, but I find it interesting.
#5 – Tools
Every type of tool , of every quality you can imagine I’ve seen left at homes. In one instance (the house that had the f150) the homeowner had left about $2,000 worth of tools at the home. In this situation I actually knew the homeowner through a 3rd party, I asked him why he left things like cordless drills, a large table saw , batteries at the home, he said ‘he had borrowed them off a friend and didn’t care about them anymore’. I guess that’s a lesson in being careful who you lend tools to. The tools lasted about 6 months in the abandoned home as I had to check the property every month or two. They were eventually stolen from the property, which shouldn’t surprise you at all.
As time goes on, I’ll add to this list, I will also share some pictures of what I’ve seen in homes before (some of it will shock you).
Please feel free to re-post this article or modify , just provide a link back to this blog.