real estate

Mend your neighborhood foreclosure

If your city doesn't fix the problem foreclosure, Smith suggests calling a nonprofit such as NHS that will work on your behalf to take care of problem properties in your neighborhood.

Help sell the property

To speed up the sale of the foreclosure, help find a potential buyer. Talk up the property, and your neighborhood, to anyone you know who is looking to buy.

"The best salespersons for an abandoned property on the block are the people that live on that block," says Smith, who often makes presentations to neighborhood groups.

If your area is particularly hard-hit by foreclosures, the eyesore on your block may already be part of a federally funded Neighborhood Stabilization Program, under which municipalities buy, fix up and resell blighted properties. Crowley says some Phoenix neighborhood groups help market NSP properties. In the Minneapolis area, Anderson has seen neighbors banding together to buy foreclosed or NSP properties, fixing them up and reselling them.

What you shouldn't do

Don't waste your time playing detective, trying to figure out who owns the foreclosure nightmare on your block in an effort to get the owner to take responsibility. Foreclosures can take months or more than a year. It's often difficult to pinpoint who currently holds the deed, Anderson says.

Ask your building-code department, or a similar agency, what you can do legally to help maintain the property, says Anderson. In most cases, they'll give the go-ahead to pick up trash outside the property or mow the lawn. Be sure to get permission first.

Avoid the temptation to sneak onto the property and try to fix it up yourself. "Don't try to do anything on your own," Smith says. "(You) could actually be held liable for anything that goes wrong on that property. You have to go through the proper channels."

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