Is it right to strip a house you are about to lose? I see this happen quite often in middle to high end neighborhoods. Recently we took over a house in Burr Ridge, IL which is a high end suburb of Chicago. The house was easily a $1,500,000 house even in this market. The neighborhood was completely built with similar houses which were $1,500,000+ and as of right now there are still a few high end custom homes under construction in that neighborhood.
When we were first assigned the task to check on the occupancy of the home we easily found the home because it stood out like a sore thumb being the only house in the neighborhood that didn't have landscaping which was nicely groomed. We pulled in the driveway and immediately saw a pickup truck parked so it was obvious that someone was still living in the home. When we visit a foreclosed home and find people still living in the property then we try to make contact so we open up the lines of communicatio and try to work out a cash for keys deal to get the owners/tenants out in a timely fashion. The front double door had huge windows built into them so we were able to look into the house and see people in the living room watching TV plus get a decent idea of the interior condition of the house which, at the time, looked good despite the exterior needing upkeep. As soon as we rang the door-bell the 3 people in the living room just got up off the couch and walked away as if they had no idea anyone was at the door. We simply taped our contact info to their door and left. About a week later the bank sent us an email that the house was being redeemed by the owners and to cease all tasks. About 3 months went by before the bank updated us on the situation of that house. The situation was that the owners never followed through with their redemption and the bank wanted us to go back to the home to check on the occupancy status again. When we arrived at the home, the first thing we noticed was no vehicles in the driveway. We then proceeded to the front door where it became obvious that the place had been abandoned. All the furniture was gone and we could even see through the windowed door that some appliances were gone. When we find a foreclosure that has been abandoned we immediatley gain access to secure the property, take pictures, and assess the damages. The owners had taken everything of value out of the house. They took all appliances, kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, light fixtures, doors, shower enclosures, toilets, some light switches and electrical outlets, a built in bar, and so on. The only thing they didn't take which made us happy was the sump-pump because the basement was finished (despite a few things they stripped) and it would have been a shame if it flooded. Despite the amount of damage done to the house by the previous owners the bank just had us call the police to get a police report so they can make an insurance claim. No charges were filed against the previous owners.
Another house that was stripped by its previous owners was a middle class house located in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood of Chicago. For those not familiar with Chicago neighborhoods Mt Greenwood is considered a good neighborhood to live in. In Chicago the good neighborhoods are usually the ones occupied by city employees (ie. Cops, Firemen, & City Workers) because city employees are required to live in Chicago in order to hold a city position. When we pulled up to the house to check occupancy it was obvious it was vacant because it was boarded up. We were immediately approached by a couple neighbors who happened to be Chicago cops, and they were more than happy to tell us the details about the previous owner. It turned out the house was owned by a Chicago Fireman whose wife became addicted to internet shopping. Despite a hefty paycheck coming in from the fireman the wife kept spending and eventually they didn't have any money to pay the mortgage. The fireman knew he was going to lose the house so he rented another house a few streets over and then hired a crew to strip the house of everything. The neighbors told us they watched as the fireman personally directed a crew a men to pull out anything and everything of value down to the windows. The fireman then tried to pull a scam by saying that he was robbed and even tried to blame the neighbors for not stopping the house from being stripped, but the scam didn't pan out since more than a few Chicago cops personally watched him direct the crew as to what items to strip. So the fireman then gained sympathy from his fellow fireman who couldn't believe he would do something like that and they pooled some money together to hire a board up service to secure the home for the guy. Now all the neighbors are stuck looking at this stripped down ugly house until it is purchased and rehabbed. Once again, the bank just has a police report filed for insurance purposes and no charges are filed against the previous owner.
Those two examples are just a couple of many where home owners destroy their own house before the bank can take it over.
About 3 years ago when I first started listing REO properties is when a relative of mine who lives in the south suburbs of Chicago decided to completely update her house from the ground up because her and her husband felt it would help them sell the property for top-dollar. Little did they know how much the market was going to tank over the next 3 years. One day at a wedding, I was telling them stories about houses that I've come across that had been stripped by the previous owners, and as they listened, I could see the shocked look on their faces as they would ask eachother how someone could do something like that? Fast forward 3 years and they are about 6 months away from losing their house and refuse to do a short sale. They have been going to court trying to fight the foreclosure (without a lawyer) and are getting no-where. They recently told me the bank's lawyers pulled a fast one and didn't inform them of a court date which really pushed ahead their foreclosure since they weren't at court. They are now irate with the bank and the bank's lawyers and want revenge. How do they plan on getting revenge? They are planning on stripping the house clean, and somehow selling whatever they can to whoever they can. Funny how their mind changed in a matter of 3 years. I think the 2 reasons that houses get stripped are for the money that the materials can fetch and the main reason they strip it is a way to stick it to the bank.
My opinion, probably like everyone else's opinion, is that the house should be left the way you lived in it. I can see taking appliances since those can be considered personal property even in a standard real estate deal but windows, flooring, cabinets, vanities, countertops, toilets, come on! I guess we really don't know how we would act in a certain situation until we are in that situation.