Here's the Keys, and Some Cement Down the Drains

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Beams said she has seen the same frequency of vandalism in the past few years compared to the largest foreclosure waves in the mid 80s and late 90s.

"It hasn't subsided," said Beams. "It's ridiculous it's still going on."

Moon said he has seen fewer instances of vandalism in southern California because people are more educated about the foreclosure process today. He said most foreclosed owners are aware that banks will offer relocation assistance if they move out of the house by a specific time period with the house intact.

"Before, they were more ashamed that they lost their homes. These days, they're not ashamed. They say the bank ripped me off, when it can be the economy. So it's more of an entitled generation."

Vandalism Harms Overall Housing Market

About 13.9 percent of all real estate properties owned by a bank or agency were so badly damaged that they did not qualify for standard mortgage financing, according to data collected from real estate agents across the country for November 2010.

Thomas Popnik said this is an improvement from July 2009, when his firm, Campbell Surveys, began collecting data. At that time, the proportion was 19.8 percent of all real estate owned properties.

He said agents are selling properties more quickly before they are vandalized, often conducting short-sales for less than the mortgage amount outstanding. Otherwise, he said damaged properties decrease the value of not only one home, but other homes in that neighborhood and cause declines in the overall housing market.

If you are a neighbor to one of these damaged properties, your house value goes down, and it feeds into a system of comparables for appraisals," said Popnik. "All these really low prices get fed into the appraisal system."

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