Business Booms For Foreclosure Contractors Hundreds of thousands of families have been forced out of their homes, leaving banks to take over those properties and salvage them for what they're worth. That means extra business for contractors that specialize in "preserving" the homes so banks can resell them.
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Business Booms For Foreclosure Contractors

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Business Booms For Foreclosure Contractors

Business Booms For Foreclosure Contractors

Business Booms For Foreclosure Contractors

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Jim Banford of Real Estate Asset Disposition Corp. walks through a house that is headed into foreclosure. The company will try to resell the property. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Jim Banford of Real Estate Asset Disposition Corp. walks through a house that is headed into foreclosure. The company will try to resell the property.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Empty homes can drag down neighborhood property prices. In Moreno Valley, Calif., a bank-owned house sits vacant and in deteriorating condition. David McNew/Getty Images hide caption

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David McNew/Getty Images

Empty homes can drag down neighborhood property prices. In Moreno Valley, Calif., a bank-owned house sits vacant and in deteriorating condition.

David McNew/Getty Images

The financial crisis is talked about in large, abstract terms: the bail-out plan, the hundreds of billions of dollars, the peaks and valleys of the Dow Jones industrial average.

It is easy to forget the fundamental problem in the economy that started the crisis: homeowners defaulting on mortgages.

Millions of Americans are finding that they can't make their mortgage payments. Hundreds of thousands of families have been forced out of their homes, leaving banks to take over those properties and salvage them for what they're worth.

Few people see this view of the financial crisis better than Paul Carlozzi who works for Safeguard Properties, a "property preservation" company.

When a person defaults on a mortgage, the bank hires a company such as Safeguard to go to the home and seal it up. The company changes the locks, boards up broken windows, picks up the newspapers and mows the lawn.

And business is booming. Safeguard says it handles about a quarter-million foreclosed properties a month across the country, and Carlozzi says he inspects between 25 and 30 houses every day.

The homes are pictures of lives interrupted: alarm clocks, shoes, ashtrays, baby pictures and a card addressed to the "World's Best Grandma." All are jumbled together in musty old bedrooms.

Carlozzi looks for problems that could lower home values if not taken care of quickly — problems like a leaky ceiling or rotting trash. His goal is not to fix a property, but to get it to some minimum standard.

The part of Carlozzi's job that makes him feel good is focusing on the possibilities for a new family moving into their new home after his crews are done.

Even with the foreclosure crisis, he says, his job isn't so different – there have always been people who have defaulted on their loans.

What surprises him these days is the sheer number of homes in foreclosure. They're often clustered in the same neighborhoods, just blocks apart.

That means Carlozzi and people with jobs like his get a vivid, daily picture of just how bad the crisis is — if they stop to think about it. But for Carlozzi, it's on to the next house.