There was a house for sale in my new town, a foreclosed property listed at $43,000. The price got my attention. It got a lot of people's attention, judging by the parade of potential buyers at the house. The real estate agents were handing the key off to one another as they came and went. Locking up wasn't an option.
The house had only one bathroom, was in the floodplain, and had a swimming pool in poor shape that would probably need to be removed. There were obvious signs that both a child and a dog had been there.
But it was liveable, and a price like that covers a multitude of sins. We had nearly enough equity in our house in Oklahoma to buy this one outright. We could keep the back door locked until we saved up enough to deal with the pool.
So I put in an offer. I bid a little above the list price, even though I was advised that people were likely bidding in the fifty thousands. Someone else got the house. That's alright. It was a long shot.
Another foreclosed house also got my attention. This one stood out because of its condition. It had some exterior damage and the septic system needed repair, but the inside was pristine. No stains on the carpet, no scuffs on the walls. The previous owners had removed their curtains, then put the screws back in the wall. I could see that they loved their home to the very end. They loved it and they couldn't hold on to it.
I know there's a sad story behind every foreclosure, but it typically shows up as deferred maintenance, maybe a hole punched in a wall. That's somehow easier to deal with. Those screws neatly back in their holes, they just broke my heart.
* * *
After World War II, Germans were forced to leave eastern parts of Germany, and the land became part of Poland. Poles were forced to leave eastern Poland, and they moved into the empty German houses. Both my parents grew up in such houses.
Fifty years after the war, I was surprised to see a tourist bus in a small town in Poland. My aunt explained that Germans organize these bus trips to look at what they'd lost half a century ago.
The German houses, the foreclosed houses, they are haunted by the ghosts of still-living people.