Sinkholes Threaten Homes Across the Country

Act 3: Several families have had to flee from sinkholes swallowing homes and even people.
6:25 | 11/15/13

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Transcript for Sinkholes Threaten Homes Across the Country
real estate. Location, location, location. But what happens when that location disappears under your feet into a massive sink hole? Tonight the real estate nightmare playing out in one american neighborhood, seven families suddenly looking for a new place to live. Here's abc's gio benitez on that sinking feeling. Reporter: Welcome to sunny florida. The sinkhole capital of the nation. A hole that can bury you financially, or bury you forever. I was halfway out of the house, called 911. How far is it sinking? It's just cracking, the whole house and floor are cracking. Reporter: This is what's left of the dupree family home in dunedin after a sinkhole made a house call yesterday. I thought someone was trying to break in, but I didn't expect this. Reporter: No one was breaking in. It was the dupree family home breaking up. First, the porch and the brand new boat devoured by the earth. Today, a demolition crew took care of the rest -- pushing the remains into the sinkhole, reducing what housed five years of dupree family memories to dust. Later this weekend, it will also be filled in with sand. the dupree family says they knew the sinkhole was here years ago. But were fighting with their insurance company on exactly how to fix it. The duprees aren't alone, this homeowner has been living with the danger of a potential sinkhole on his property while he slugs it out with his insurance company on how to proceed. We are in a dangerous situation. Definitely. It's been for the past three years. We get up in the morning and notice that crack is bigger. I mean, all of a sudden, it's gotten larger. Reporter: The nonaction can lead to a form of real estate roulette where every day could turn to drama. This entire area and our home could fall into the earth. Could just collapse. With us in it. The bedroom floor collapsed and my brother-in-law is underneath the house! An enormous sink hole swallows a family's home. Reporter: But the fallout isn't just financial. Sometimes, it's deadly. Back in february. A seffner florida man was killed when a massive hole opened up under his family's home. Without warning, the ground gave way and swallowed the 37-year old, his furniture, clothes and everything else the sinkhole could fit in its giant mouth. That hole just opened up and swallowed my brother's bed. Reporter: The victim's brother, went into that same darkness and lived to tell about it. I was in that hole myself, i didn't care. The hole was still growing as i was in the hole. Concrete was still falling as i was in the hole, I didn't care. I really didn't. This man right here is going to have to live the rest of his life seeing himself in that hole and hearing his brother scream his name. That's his last words. He's calling his brother's name. Reporter: The damage was a shock to first responders as well. Never. Never in my life have I seen anything like that. Reporter: The man became the third sinkhole fatality in florida. Carla chapman was barely able to avoid the same fate. In 2011, the plant city woman fell in a sinkhole in her own backyard but managed to call 911 from her cell phone. 911 emergency. Do you need police, fire or ambulance? I'm in the ground! You're in the ground? Somebody help me! Reporter: About the only thing unexpected in this week's drama was that the damage happened outside the so called, "sinkhole season," which runs from around february thru the end of the summer. Sinkholes form when limestone, which is pourous, is eaten away by water. The land above it -- now without the support of the limestone -- can dramatically give way at any moment. To get a closer look at a sinkhole, we went inside one with geologist anthony randazzo. Here at the devils den scuba diving resort near gainesville, people don't fall in a sinkhole. They take the stairs. When you're looking at this, you're saying it's like that seffner home. Yes. A diameter of 20, 25 feet for the sink hole. But in the subsurface, much wider, much deeper. Reporter: Down in this diver's paradise the terror many associate with sink holes is replaced by tranquility. The question they're asking above ground remains the same. Do you think any recovery effort would have been successful? I think it would have been fruitless. Reporter: One man's misery is another man's opportunity. Enter the sink hole guy. There is actually sink hole activity beneath this home? That's correct. It was identified by the engineers that the soils are very unstable below this home. Reporter: Taylor is a contractor and during sink hole season he's busy. Very busy. How many of these do you do each month? We underpin 30 to 40 homes in a month average. Reporter: The process involves a series of metal rods and concrete mixture that brackets the home to solid footing. Peace of mind does not come cheap. This process can range from 25 to $50,000 per home. Reporter: Experts say a home with a sinkhole problem can lose 80% of its value. Simply because home buyers are afraid to buy in the area. Fear is the worst enemy of real estate value. Reporter: Real estate shark barbara corcoran says just the stigma of having a sinkhole property in your neighborhood is enough to drive property values down. It could reduce the value of your home by a third, even 40, 50%. Reporter: Yesterday michael dupree tried to recover the value of something far more significant. He asked firefighters if his wedding ring could be retrieved from his home. A firefighter did manage to find the ring on a desk and not a moment too soon. They got it for me. It's amazing. We never thought it could be so

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