What Gets Left Behind

(Dayna Smith - Dayna Smith/ftwp)

By Dina ElBoghdady
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 26, 2008

Buying a foreclosure can take a lot of imagination.

That's because many of these homes are not in great shape. Once lenders repossess them, they typically contract with real estate agents to take charge of hiring cleaning crews, re-keying locks, shutting down the plumbing and doing whatever else it takes to get the house sold.

Some agents do a better job than others. A lot depends on how much the bank is willing to pay for the fixes.

"The main challenge is to get over your emotional reaction to the negatives and to have Spock-like clarity and logic to see the potential of a place," said Jim Whitehead, a real estate agent at Lord & Saunders in Woodbridge.

But no matter the condition of the house, there's almost always something amusing, alarming or simply sad that gets left behind -- or moves in (and we're not talking about the new owners).

"If you're in the market for a foreclosure, you have to keep a sense of humor about it," said Vivianne Couts, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Fairfax. "If you got a good deal, so what if there are a few cockroaches to get rid of?"

Here's a closer look at what some local folks have found as they have dealt with foreclosed homes.

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