Take This Home and Shove It!

New CitiMortgage program hopes to abate the number of homeowners who destroy and loot their homes as they enter foreclosure

By Lisa Parker
|  Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013  |  Updated 5:35 PM CDT
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Program hopes to abate the number of homeowners who destroy and loot their homes as they enter foreclosure.

Program hopes to abate the number of homeowners who destroy and loot their homes as they enter foreclosure.

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As the number of foreclosures increases, so too does the number of incidents where homeowners, unable to save their homes, take their frustration out on the lender by destroying and looting the home before they leave, according to experts.

"They are taking a hammer to the toilets and sinks and the showers and just destroying the place, saying, 'Here, if you want it so bad, here's this big dump. You can have it,'" explained Michael Van Zalingen of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago.

Van Zalingen said the practice does more than hurt the mortgage servicer, though; it also has a serious impact on the neighborhood.

"It's going to make buyers less likely to want to buy it. Additionally it's going to drive down the market price of the properties near that house or condo," he said.

And when housing values go down, crime typically goes up.

These are among the reasons one of the nation's largest lenders, CitiMortgage, last month launched a pilot program in six states, including Illinois, that offers foreclosure prevention options, including deeds in lieu of foreclosure to its borrowers.

"They have no income, they don't qualify for a modification, or anything else -- then what Citibank will do is allow them to live in the property for free for six months, and then give them at least $1,000 dollars of moving money in exchange for not trashing the house," according to Van Zalingen.

The option to offer homeowners a more dignified way to get out of a bad situation is one housing advocates say they hope to see more of in the future.

"It's not going to hurt your credit score as much as a true foreclosure. And you will also be able to show future creditors that you tried to work something out," Van Zalingen explained.

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