California town cracks down on bank-owned properties

If you've ever looked at foreclosed properties, you've probably noticed that they're often not in the best condition: algae in the pool, unkempt lawns, peeling paint and in some cases, debris scattered across the lawn.

The poor condition that frequently characterizes foreclosures can have an adverse impact on the quality of life for neighbors and hurt property values: Who would want to buy your house when the one next door is a vacant mess? Indio, California has had enough and has come up with an innovative solution: Arresting bankers who let REO properties go into disrepair. Of course in reality that doesn't happen, but it does provide a powerful incentive for far-off banks that would otherwise let the properties languish unloved and uncared for. The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription required) on how it's working out.

It seems like a good solution: In the long run, it makes sense for banks to keep their foreclosed properties in good repair because it will increase the value they get when they're sold -- just like any loyal HGTV viewer will tell you that "curb appeal" and "staging" help homes sell faster and for more money. Better still, it will help other properties maintain their value and reduce the losses on other foreclosures and short sales.

It wouldn't surprise me to see other cities and towns adopt the draconian measures Indio has to keep lenders on top of landscaping. It doesn't cost the town a dime, and it improves quality of life and property values.
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