April 25, 2018
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Bangor officials survey abandoned, foreclosed homes

By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

David Caliendo sounds like a very nice guy on the phone, and I’m guessing he is.

But he’s certainly not the guy you want to show up on your doorstep — at least if your house is in foreclosure.

Caliendo, of Bangor Real Estate, is a “closer” of sorts. He’s the guy who raps on the door of people who have lost their homes to foreclosure and lets them know that it’s time to move on.

“I come in after the foreclosure is complete and the lending institution wants to place the home on the market,” he said.

Most often the homes already are empty, but 25 percent to 30 percent of the time the prior homeowner still is living in the house.

It’s Caliendo’s job to ensure the house is vacated and secured and ready to be put up for sale.

“It can be awkward,” he said this week. “I never know what I’m going to face.”

Caliendo has been busy lately.

“Dealing in foreclosed properties started as a sideline, but it has become a big part of our agency,” he said.

“Most of the time a house going into foreclosure is due to what I call the four D’s,” he said. “No. 1 is divorce, No. 2 is disability, No. 3 is debt. And I don’t mean mortgage debt. I mean brand-new pickups, hauling brand-new Jet Skis and not one, not two, but three MasterCards maxed out at $20,000. I mean that kind of debt. And No. 4 is drugs. Then there also is denial and dumb that tend to work their way into the rest of those issues.”

Dan Wellington, who recently retired after 28 years in Bangor’s code enforcement office, said many homes in Bangor are not even in foreclosure but simply have been abandoned by people who no longer can afford them.

It’s not the mass exodus of whole neighborhoods that is happening in cities such as Fort Myers, Fla.; Las Vegas; and Modesto, Calif.; but the number of vacant and abandoned properties in the Bangor area is becoming increasingly visible.

Wellington sent his crew on a sort of stealth information-gathering assignment last summer.

“I literally had them driving around trying to determine the situation with some of our houses here in the city,” he said in an interview this week. “What we found was an increase in the number of houses that had simply been abandoned. The owners have just closed the door and walked away.”

And what those who work in the world of foreclosed homes can tell you is that it is neither a perfectly streamlined nor a speedy process.

Caliendo said there can be a lot of time — months or even years — between when a house is vacated and when the lending institution takes and completes actual foreclosure proceedings.

Some of that delay is because of legal complications such as bankruptcy or deed issues, and sometimes it’s because the institutions can’t keep up with the large number of foreclosure cases.

“There’s a house up on Court Street. It was just a beautiful, beautiful home, and it’s been empty and abandoned for going on four years and it’s fallen into disrepair,” Wellington said.

Generally, City Hall is made aware that a house has been abandoned when neighbors call to complain about the condition of the home.

Lawns aren’t mowed in the summer, sidewalks aren’t shoveled in the winter, broken windows are left unrepaired.

“It’s very true that these homes can quite quickly become a blight in the neighborhood,” said Jeremy Martin of the city’s code enforcement office.

But the city itself has little recourse, and there is no one clearinghouse of data on foreclosed-upon or abandoned homes, which is why Wellington sent his office crew out on its stealth mission last summer.

“Of course, it’s an issue that affects our city, but the city itself has very limited ability to intervene,” Wellington said.

“We can take some legal action regarding code violations if those sort of things become an issue,” Martin said. “And we can board it up if it is open and people are getting inside because it certainly becomes a safety issue. But beyond that the city has very limited rights and, of course, as the house itself falls into disrepair, that affects the value of the house and the surrounding properties.”

Perhaps the worst enemy of an abandoned home in Maine is winter, and Martin is aware that it is knocking on the door.

“Certainly freezing and bursting pipes are perhaps the most damaging issue. That can clearly do thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to any home,” he said.

Wellington noted this week that Bangor was slow to face the foreclosure crisis that has plagued so many communities across the country.

“They’re looking at bulldozing entire abandoned neighborhoods in Detroit,” he said. “We have nothing like that here, but you pay attention and look around and you’ll see [abandoned homes]. They are in neighborhoods all over the city.”

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