Friday, November 16, 2012

Threats From Foreclosed Former Owner Keep Recent Home Buyer, Family From Moving Into Recently-Purchased REO

In Columbus, Ohio, The Columbus Dispatch reports:

  • Xavier Salek worked a decade to save enough money to buy his first house. Now he and his family are too terrified to move in.

    Salek’s story should be one of triumph. Instead, it illustrates an ugly aftermath of the housing collapse.

    Salek moved to Columbus a decade ago, a 28-year-old refugee from violence-torn Mauritania in western Africa. During the next several years, he delivered packages, slowly putting money away to buy a home for his family.

    After saving $15,000, he found a house in foreclosure on the Northeast Side with the help of real-estate agent Lyuda Dehlendorf. He borrowed $3,000 from friends and, in late September, paid $18,000 cash for the 1,000-square-foot, three-bedroom ranch. Although the house needs work, he was excited by the idea of having something of his own in America. He liked to think of his two young children playing in the spacious backyard.

    Salek hired friend and fellow Mauritanian Ali Kane, a construction worker, to help renovate the house. Shortly after Kane arrived at the home to start the work, Kane said, a man pulled up in a black pickup truck, hopped out and told him that he was the rightful homeowner and that Salek’s purchase was a “fraud.”

    He said he used to live here,” Kane recalled. “He started talking about how people get shot for moving into other people’s homes.” Kane passed along the exchange, which he took as a thinly veiled threat, to Salek and his wife.

    The family was so alarmed that they refused to move in. (In talking to me for this column, Salek asked that the address and his real name not be used, because he fears what the man might do.)

    Salek called Dehlendorf to see whether he could get his money back. She said no and urged him to call the police. Columbus Police Sgt. David Pelphrey confirmed that Salek should file a report. The next step, if the harassment continues, might be to seek a restraining order.

    Dehlendorf assured Salek that he and his wife are the rightful owners of the home. A title search had revealed nothing unusual, no competing claims.

    According to a neighbor, the description of the man in the pickup matches that of the former owner, who, along with his wife, lost the home earlier this year after failing to make payments on the mortgage.

    The former owner’s anger reflects the lingering bitterness — taken to the extreme — among homeowners who’ve lost homes to foreclosure.

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