Help Me Strip My Foreclosure

Remove Yourself — Candiria

Touch what you can’t have
While i have what you can’t touch for now
My friend, all of this will turn to ash

Cash-strapped homedebtors going through a foreclosure often look for ways to get a few dollars out of the property before they give it back to the lender. One common way is to strip down the property and sell everything of value.

When I was in school, I had the privilege of helping a man named Frank Little as he retooled his architecture practice. He did a great deal of research on the tax code and the distinctions between what is personal property and what is a fixture of real estate. In architectural design, it is possible to create construction drawings to have what would ordinarily be classified as a fixture (part of the real estate) be classified as personal property. There are major tax advantages to this classification as you can greatly accelerate the depreciation. In working with Frank, I gained some knowledge of the grey areas between real estate and personal property.

The distinction between fixtures and personal property becomes very important when one is facing foreclosure. The personal property is yours, and you can do what you want with it. However the fixtures are real estate, and as such, they are part of the lender’s collateral. If you remove and sell fixtures, you are potentially stealing from the lender and reducing the value of the collateral.

Most people going through foreclosure could care less about the lender’s collateral. In fact, some people intentionally trash the place simply out of spite. In the weekend open thread, I mentioned a property in Beaumont (35756 Trevino Beaumont,
92223: $492,000 new in 2006, asking $122,850 today. That is a property just over 2 years old (December 2006 to January 2009) selling at a 75% discount.) This property is selling for such a steep discount because the previous owners stripped the house before they left.

I mention all this because a reader sent me a Craigslist ad where a guy facing foreclosure is offering to sell everything in the house, including the fixtures. Here is the ad:

“My $1.5 Million dollar house was built last year and I just lost my job
after 10 years of service and can’t pay $10,000 a month. I pray to GOD
to the other families who are in the same position.

I will list the New prices so make your BEST OFFER.


40 White flush 6 inch Can lights $145 each obo

3 white Stairway lights $620 total obo

10 J-Boxes $185 each obo

Greyfox Intercom System Package, Master station, 3 interior sub stations, 1 exterior $2,640 obo

Central Vacuum System with accessory kit Dirt Devil pro series 690 12w x 39tall $2,840 obo

15 universal outlets $275 each obo

KITCHEN CABINETS total $12,650 obo some sizes 23.75w x 52.75single,
30w x30 tall double, 30w x25 double, 2) 36w x12.5 drawers, 33w x 10
drawer, 30w x5 drawer and more in Island etc.

20 about Kitchen Knobs polished nickel $950 total obo

Kitchen Island cabinets $1,435 obo

Undertone Undermount stainless steel Sink Kohler k3356, 29.5w x 34.5 with garbage disposal $980 obo

(SOLD) Wolf Stainless Steel 30” x 50 tall double over with professional handles $3,045 obo

(SOLD) Thermador Stainless Dishwasher with professional handles 23w x 34.5 tall $1,020 obo

(SOLD) Thermador Stainless built-in Microwave with trim kit $490 obo

(SOLD) Wolf stainless 36” Gas cooktop 5 burners $1,790 obo

KitchenAid wine cooler stainless 24” separate climate for red and white holds 48 bottles $1,570 obo

Sub Zero FRIGERATOR with ice and water 42w x 84tall $10,845 obo

Bathroom tub enclosure clear glass doors 58wx 62tall $540 obo

Bathroom stand up shower enclosure clear glass door $540 obo

Framed Mirror master bath 74w x 45 $1,235 obo

Framed Mirror guest bath 30w x 42 $620 obo

WHITE SHUTTERS 20 WINDOWS 4 1/2 inch blades double and single

49w x60tall double, 19 w x36.5 tall single, (3) 37w x 42tall, (3) 25w x 60tall, 24 3/4w x48 3/4tall

(6) 36.5 x 60 3/4 double, $400 each obo

5 Mirrored medicine cabinets 16w x 26 tall $400 obo

2 Mansfield toilets $400 each obo

2 Bathroom towel racks polished nickel $60 obo

4 Bathroom lights with 3 hanging glass bells $100 obo

13 DOORS with fancy double molding (3) 29 3/4w x 79, (5) 31 3/4 x 79, 29.5w x 79, 27 3/4 x 79,

32w x 79 mirrored on each side $250 obo

Bradford White hydrojet energy saver 50 gallon defender safety system WATER HEATER $400 obo

15 Journeyman security double halogen lights motion sensored $30 obo

Looking over his list, I don’t see much there that would qualify as personal property. Nearly everything there is part of the lender’s collateral. If you don’t believe me, read the definition of “fixture” and tell me what you think. I have left off the name and phone number, but I have left the link to the Craigslist ad so that you know it is for real.

Is this stealing? Technically, the guy still owns the house and all the fixtures therein. There are probably provisions in the mortgage that prevents the sale of fixtures after a default, but who would enforce it? If you purchased this stuff, are you stealing? Does the technical definition matter? Is this right or wrong?

Let’s assume that technically this is not stealing because the guy owns the house. Is it OK for you to buy the stuff and screw the lender?

Let’s assume that this man is stealing from the lender. Are you participating in a crime by buying his stolen goods?

Would your ignorance to the crime make it OK? Most people who respond to a Craigslist ad like this are not going to know or understand the nuances of personal property law as it pertains to imminent foreclosures. Most would not care.

Would you buy from this guy?

So digest your consequences
The Serpent’s venom runs inside of you
Your lust, desire will blind your senses
Whirlwinds of disaster for you


Today’s featured property is NOT the one mentioned in the Craigslist ad. The only reason it is not is because the owner has not decided to strip it down… yet.

25 Fresco kitchen

Asking Price: $1,599,000IrvineRenter

Income Requirement: $399,750

Downpayment Needed: $319,800

Monthly Equity Burn: $13,325

Purchase Price: $1,891,000

Purchase Date: 6/28/2006

Address: 25 Fresco, Irvine, CA 92618

Beds: 3
Baths: 3
Sq. Ft.: 3,100
$/Sq. Ft.: $516
Lot Size: 8,500

Sq. Ft.

Property Type: Single Family Residence
Style: Tuscan
Year Built: 2006
Stories: 1
Floor: 1
View: City Lights, City, Greenbelt, Hills, Mountain, Panoramic, Valley
Area: Quail Hill
County: Orange
MLS#: S537000
Source: SoCalMLS
Status: Active
On Redfin: 214 days

Unsold in 90+ days

Gourmet Kitchen Award

Desirable SINGLE STORY near new single family RESIDENCE ONE siding to
GREENBELT in community of VICARA in QUAIL HILL, Irvine on a top,
SINGLE-LOADED ST. with 180 degree PANORAMIC VIEWS of mountains, valley,
city lights, and sunsets; 3BRs + OFFICE + MEDIA ROOM, 2.5BAs with 2-CAR
ATT.GAR + STORAGE. Over 150K in UPGRADES incl Gourmet Kitchen
w/stainless steel appl.+ Blt-in wine cooler;granite ctertops
thruout,custom stone,custom hardwood flring thruout;easy maintenance
landscaping front & back;Honeywell digital A/C system w/
micro-filtration built-in. gar. fits 2 cars+computer station w/internet
& phone line+storage. Soft water system thruout. Monitored alarm
system;inside laundry rm w/sink. Lots of cabinet space. Central vacuum
in garage. Outdr speakers in back yard. Courtyd w/fountain/blt-in BBQ
w/sink, burner & granite countertps,fire pit/blt-in
speakers,&French drs out from dining rm & bedrm.Award-winning
Alderwood Basics+ Elem.+nationally-ranked University HS;resort-style

Intermittent CAPS LOCK.

flring? rm? drs? incl? Outdr? thruout? Can’t find room for a few more letters (throughout)?

VICARA in QUAIL HILL. Am I the only one who reads “Viagra” every time “Vicara” is mentioned? Viva Vicara

This property was purchased near the peak on 6/28/2006 for $1,891,000. The owner used a $1,511,200 first mortgage, and a $379,800 downpayment. Wow, that must suck. This guy is losing all of his money.

If this property sells for its asking price, and if a 6% commission is paid, the total loss on the property will be $387,940. Since this almost exactly matches the owners downpayment, you have to suspect the price will get pretty sticky right where it is. This listing price history is agony in motion:

Date Event Price Appreciation Source
Dec 11, 2008 Price Changed $1,599,000 SoCalMLS #S537000
Dec 06, 2008 Price Changed $1,659,000 SoCalMLS #S537000
Nov 10, 2008 Price Changed $1,699,000 SoCalMLS #S537000
Nov 05, 2008 Price Changed $1,729,000 SoCalMLS #S537000
Sep 09, 2008 Price Changed $1,799,000 SoCalMLS #S537000
Aug 07, 2008 Price Changed $1,890,000 SoCalMLS #S537000
Jun 19, 2008 Listed $1,989,000 SoCalMLS #S537000
Jun 28, 2006 Sold $1,891,000 Public Records

Each price drop comes right out of this guys downpayment. For his sake, I hope he sells it before it becomes a short sale. It doesn’t look very promising.


Men of the Earth
You have soiled you’re so foul
With lips of infected sullen
You will indulge yourself

So digest your consequences
The Serpent’s venom runs inside of you
Your lust, desire will blind your senses
Whirlwinds of disaster for you
(for you)

Remove yourself
And take your breath away
Rebuild yourself
Before you fall away

And i will lift you from the bottom
And my hope will fade away
I must pick you up
So you can survive the day

Touch what you can’t have
While i have what you can’t touch for now
My friend, all of this will turn to ash

Remove Yourself — Candiria

21 thoughts on “Help Me Strip My Foreclosure

  1. george8

    >>This property was purchased near the peak on 6/28/2006 for $1,891,000. The owner used a $1,511,200 first mortgage, and a $379,800 down payment. Wow, that must suck. This guy is losing all of his money<< This is likely not this guy's first property. So, he is simply giving back some of his bubbly profit from last property. Sadly, I think he is a little late trying to get out at this still inflated price. Hope that he will not strip the house down no matter what is coming.

  2. Texas Triffid Ranch

    Considering the illiterate and incoherent listings that get posted for these places, have you ever had the feeling that realtors learn how to read and write by studying comments on YouTube?

  3. Furman Smith

    I don’t know anything about California law and practice, but in my state many lenders use a “Deed to Secure Debt and Security Agreement” which covers many items which would otherwise be personal property. Moreover, the state penal code makes it a crime to endanger the lender’s security interest by removing, destroying, transfering, etc. property subject to that security interest.

  4. no_vaseline

    It’s never ever enforced. The special assets department that would go after somebody is understaffed for the good times, and even if they did, most of the borrowers file BK and dump all thier debt after losing the house. No assets: no collections.

    1. SoOCOwner

      The Craigslist posting is so blatant – I’m beyond angry. I’m tempted to pretend I’m an interested party just so I can get the home’s address and provide the listing to the bank that is carrying the mortgage. I don’t see how a lender could ignore something like this. Maybe if they were provided with the info they could respond proactively.

  5. Orcian

    From, very interesting article about high-income earners who are in a tough spot. Irvine Renter, you might enjoy reading about the realtor (page 5) who was making $350K/year, but bought a $525K home with no money down. You would think that someone making $350K a year would at least have saved enough for a 20-50% down payment. What did these people do with their money? Sheesh! Some of these people really did think prices would keep going up indefinitely. Perhaps they listened to Gary Watts a little too closely.

  6. SD Kate

    As someone facing foreclosure, I plan to leave the house clean and intact. I’ll take the washer and dryer and fridge, as I moved those in. I’m leaving the garage door opener, even though I moved it in, it’s part of the house now. I’m leaving the new bathroom fixtures and appliances we installed. The garage shelves will be up to my dad, we’ll probably take them, as they’ve moved with me through several rentals previously.

    I think the people who trash the houses should be charged with a crime. As much as everyone wants to blame someone else, it’s mostly our fault we’re in this situation (‘our’ as in troubled homeowners). Trashing the house isn’t going to help, it’s only going to hurt everyone. I’ve heard stories of people smashing granite countertops and punching holes in drywall. A co-worker just bought a fixer upper with drywall holes and no bathroom fixtures.
    To me, that is a crime.

    1. Texas Triffid Ranch

      I offer nothing but kudos for your attitude on this. I wish there was something I could do to help your situation, but at least know that you have one person with an incredible amount of respect for you in your decisions. If only others were so responsible.

  7. Laura Louzader

    This is a beautiful house, one of the most attractive you’ve featured here. Sure hope it doesn’t get stripped, but most people don’t do that.

    We’ve seen a number of stripped houses in higher price brackets here. Mansions on the West Side priced at $1.4M that have no kitchens or bath fixtures, but it’s really not typical.

    I have always understood that anything that came attached to the walls when you bought the place was a “fixture”, but that items you attached yourself are “personal property”, with some important distinctions. Usually, really basic things like the new kitchen cabinets you installed last year are “fixtures” because they are basic necessities. Same with bath fixtures and fittings, from plumbing fixtures to towel rails.

    But something like your mother’s crystal chandelier is “personal property”. However,make sure you take the thing down before you show the house for sale, or it becomes something you must include.

  8. AVRenter

    “with 2-CAR ATT.GAR”

    Yes, for a home of this caliber I’m glad the realtard found it necessary to point out it has an attached garage. When I buy a Lexus I like to see that “steering wheel” is also included.

    $1.6 mil for a house and you get a 2-car garage. Burn.

  9. tonyE

    I for one would prefer to see REPOs trashed for two reasons:

    (1) A trashed house will no affect the comps so much.
    (2) A trashed house is a fixer upper and it gives the new owner the opportunity to put the stuff they like and not pay RE taxes on it. I mean, not everyone likes granite.

  10. Matt

    Hmmm. This is one of them “ethical questions.”

    Methinks that there are shades of grey. The former owner pulls out a few light fixtures that he really likes, or takes the washer/dryer or fridge…not that big a deal (particularly as those appliances are often included or NOT included in the sale, indicating to me that they are, in some sense, separate from the real estate). However, once it strays from “typical” or “understandable” it’s a darker shade of grey.

    I think my order would go something like this, from light to dark:
    window dressing things (blinds, rods, whatever)
    a couple of light fixtures
    security system
    ALL the light fixtures
    all the copper in the house

  11. Paul P.

    Regarding “fixer-uppers-“…

    It is *very difficult* to “fix up” a trashed house with any hope of getting your money out of it. The work is never-ending and difficult. To fix “broken stuff” a nightmare. Sure, lots of stories about fixer-uppers who made money (zillions of people lost-their-shirt attempting a fix-up, somehow you don’t hear much about them).

    Point: I’m a 62yo guy (retired in QH, renting) and really good w/tools. A neighbor 20-something kid (who fixed my computer) told me “…there is no “shop” in school anymore. We no nothing of tools”. This makes an entire generation prey to “contractors” oh-yeah there’s an honest bunch 🙁

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