Why does the faucet get left on at foreclosed properties?

I recently came across yet another water spicket left on at a bank-owned property. This particular spicket was located in the backyard and was probably spewing water for a few days (despite the side gate being locked –> meaning someone had to jump the fence to turn this one on). The damage? At least half the crawl space had a couple inches of standing water. No bueno.

Why does the water get left on at foreclosed properties?

A) Disappointed owners wanting to stick it to the lender.
B) Squatters leaving their mark.
C) Vandals having “fun”.
D) Youth who don’t realize the costs and responsibilities of the adult world.
E) An accident.

It’s too bad things like this happen because if there is significant damage, the property will likely sell for less, and thereby hurt the value of other properties nearby. Foreclosure is such a difficult reality for so many in our local market. In no way am I trying to minimize the real pain that families go through when they have to let go of their property. I think by now we all personally know quite a few people who have been through the foreclosure process. I’m only thinking philosophically about why things like this happen. What does water being left on tell us about human behavior? What’s the psychology behind water faucets being left on?

UPDATE: Since sharing this post on my Facebook page this morning, two REO agents mentioned that winterizing has been the primary cause of running faucets. Interesting.


  1. says

    Wow, what a mess. I have not run into running water at a bank owned property but a lot of the bank owned properties I appraise have been vandalized. I think your list above explains how most happens, I am not sure why it happens though. Occasionally I see a broken door frame or window that appears to have been broken by the company that re-keys the house to secure it.

    • says

      Good thoughts. I think one thing that makes bank-owned properties an easy target too is a sense of anonymity. Most people wouldn’t normally walk up to somebody’s house and do something to degrade or damage it, but when there is no face with the house, it may be easier to do so because there is no sense of consequence or personal offense. Moreover, banks are perceived as the big bad rich guys, so maybe it doesn’t feel like a crime to behave as such.

      It really does intrigue me. I think discussion could actually go quite far on this topic. A small group, some cold organic beverages, and intentional conversation beginning with content here could get some deep conversation going….. Ah, that sounds nice.

      Anyone have further thoughts?

  2. Michael Bolton says

    I’ve appraised a lot of REO properties, but none with built-in swimming pools. That would be skating rink in my neck of the woods (MN). We get frozen pipes that make one heck of a mess when the water gets turned back on. I’ve seen some god awful things and have wondered why anyone would do this, let alone live like that. I think part of it’s that there are no consequences for their actions, and like you mentioned it’s their way of getting back. Good topic Ryan.

    • says

      Thanks for the comment. I’m glad in this case that we don’t have extremely cold weather here. If we did, the damage might be even more significant. Stay warm today, Michael.

  3. says

    I’ve seen many with missing appliances and cabinetry, that appears like homeowners are selling everything they put in to take their cash with them. In one gang area it was so bad with bashed in walls and boarded up windows, I was so nervous that I wont appraise in that zip code anymore. After the contractors finished up (hired by the REO bank), I had to go back to take new pix, and I was thrilled the construction people were there. That was gang squatters who did drugs likely inside, based on the spray painted commentary I saw. The biggest problem with water damage is the mold, and future disclosures and liability for a possible new landlord. The companies that are HazMat clean up services are the only way to get started with that mess. Some areas of Sacramento are so inexpensive, the house may sell for what land-only would sell for. Maybe just start over with that place.

    • says

      Thanks, Sonja. It’s amazing how something like real estate can really serve as a mirror for norms, problems in society, poverty, or morals. There is always more to the story and issues like this give us a bit of a glimpse at the top of the iceberg so to speak.

      I’m glad you are cautious about those types of inspections. I shot a video a while back while inspecting a boarded-up house (with my client’s permission). It’s always a bit scary when you don’t know exactly what you’ll find. I’m careful too because I don’t want drug needles to pierce the soles of my shoes.

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