Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hidden Plainfield: Fate of a Dream

Cops checked out the bona fides of crew sent to winterize house next door.

First came the blue van. Then the cops. Then the PSE&G meter reader.

Each one brought one further confirmation that the unthinkable had happened: the foreclosure crisis had hit our little West 7th Street block.

The young couple that bought our next door neighbor's house at the height of the market a few years ago had always been a bit standoffish, though not exactly unfriendly. Just very private, you might say, totally turned inward on their little nuclear family.

Though we had made efforts early on to draw them into the little web of neighborliness on our block, it had been to no avail.

Jeremiah's abandoned roadster can be seen through a chink in the fence.
What we knew was sketchy.

Then in October we noticed there was no one around, no car, no lights at night.

The mail lady told me that the mail would bunch up and just when she was ready to lug it back to the station, someone would mysteriously pick it up.

A realtor friend finally confirmed in late December that the house was, indeed, foreclosed and listed with the bank as 'abandoned'.

The blue van was sent by the bank to winterize the property (nice, more than 3 months after foreclosing and after weeks of sub-freezing temperatures -- talk about protecting your investments!).

The cops confirmed the guys from the blue van were legit.

The PSE&G meter reader told me the power had been off for three months, but he still had to read the meters. He worried that it was vulnerable to being stripped of any copper piping or wiring.

So do I.

Our block on West 7th Street has been pretty stable for the nearly thirty years we have been here, especially the families on either side. That is, until the neighbors (and friends) who owned this house (and had welcomed us with martinis when we first thought of buying) retired, moving to Florida.

On the other side, the matriarch of that family passed away a few years ago and the house was sold to divide the estate among the siblings. The couple who bought have done much better than our other next door neighbors, investing a lot in the property and -- even in a severe recession -- adding another restaurant to their previous two.

So, foreclosure has come to our neighborhood.

Welcome, as the realtors tell me, to the Plainfield reality of 2011.

Just a portion of the 644 foreclosed properties Trulia lists in Plainfield.
A search of Trulia, a leading real estate database, shows 644 foreclosures for Plainfield in its listings (see here), and even that probably does not reflect the complete picture, since the house next door does not appear on the listings.

UPDATE: Then I checked RealtyTrac (see here), which lists 925 in pre-foreclosure, 112 sheriff sales, and 239 bank-owned. Oh, my!

Plainfield came to the real estate bubble late, but left early, and our local housing market is suffering severely on account of it.

Experts say we are still working our way out from under, and 2011 is expected to be the peak year for bank takeovers of defaulted properties.

These will come on at bargain prices, consequently depressing the entire local market as their values come to be the baseline for sales comparables for other homes that may NOT be in crisis, underwater or facing foreclosure.

In this case, the falling tide is dragging all boats down with it.

Next week, Hidden Plainfield will get back to the business of looking for interesting Plainfield homes in out of the way locations.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

This is a sad state of affairs. One party who is seldom mentioned as having contributed to this fiasco is the Attorney General and the County Prosecutors. They stood idly by as fraud was perpetrated in many instances. It was as plain as the home sale reports that appeared weekly in the newspapers. One would see a report of a large Sleepy Hollow home selling for $500,000 and the next report would be for a small West End home selling for the same amount. Not hard to decide which was a bona fide transaction and which had the indicia of fraud. Perhaps their excuse is that these were private transactions. Well, the frauds certainly had public consequences of enormous magnitude as they helped inflate the market and now depress it. Has law enforcement yet to invetigate wrongdoers where fraud is suspected?

Anonymous said...

The market is a false reading of what people will pay. So, if we can get good people into Plainfield, have them take care of their property, the value will go up.

All things are cyclical. But, if Plainfield looks like a dump, it will not matter what the market does, no one will want to move here.

Let's make sure that we are vigilant with our property, and we remind our neighbors that we are all one community.

And, don't forget to call inspections when there is run down property. They may not do anything now, but the power of the people is a very motivating factor.