From the Star Ledger:
Once a house has gone through foreclosure — and is therefore likely unoccupied — who watches out for it during storms like Hurricane Irene?
Even before the properties suffered storm damage, the bank-owned houses already had a negative reputation that they are not properly maintained. Linda Fisher, a law professor at Seton Hall, studies low-income neighborhoods where this “foreclosure contagion” effect is particularly common.
“Given that owners of vacant properties tend not to maintain them well, particularly in declining markets, further property deterioration as a result of a natural disaster is going to exacerbate the problem,” Fisher said.
Since February alone, banks have repossessed more than 1,600 houses, according to RealtyTrac.
After weather events like Irene, the task of checking in on these properties often falls to real estate brokers and agents like Bill Flagg who market and sell the houses the banks own. Flagg and his team at ERA Queen City Realty in Scotch Plains have spent all day, every day this week checking in on some 100 houses he oversees throughout the state.
There are downed trees to consider, crushed fences to repair, flooded basements to drain and shattered shards of glass to sweep, as well as concerns over whether the electricity is keeping the pumps going. In one case, the wind blew siding off a property. Flagg couldn’t even get to another house in Lincoln Park because of the flooded roads.
“We check the properties, fill out incident reports, and when there’s damage, we send people out,” Flagg said yesterday as he drove from one house to another on a whirlwind day of site visits. “This stuff takes time because there’s a lot of properties. You can only do so many in a day.”