You'll know your foreclosures by the poop

The house sits behind an upholstery shop on the corner, and while I'm too young to know for sure, I'll bet the upholstery shop has thrived since the streetcar ran down Gladstone Street in the 1950s. The house, like mine, was built in the first few decades of the 20th century. An old grande dame, she is, brilliant with leaded glass windows and gingerbread detailing and a formal dining room and built-ins that must have had the real estate agents in a tizzy four years ago when the market was so hot she was flipped twice in a season, sold last for $417,000 -- nearly three times what we'd paid for our house, a block away, in 2002.

When she was first for sale my husband, who's worked for a few of the city's top residential real estate agents, called his old friends, dreaming of an investment -- he loves how enormous and elegant she is. I told him it was a foreclosure waiting to happen: even pre-crash I could see it couldn't work. The numbers just didn't make sense; the house had been a rental for many years and, despite its great "bones," there were problems that would prevent even the slummiest of landlords from breaking even.