Saturday, February 28, 2009

'Trash-outs' become more common in Oregon

From the Oregonian:

Federico "Fred" Caprotta breaks into houses for a living, removes the contents and fixes up the homes for sale.
He marvels that neighbors hardly ever call the cops. In fact, what Caprotta does -- on behalf of big-name banks -- is quite legal.
Caprotta is a former real estate broker who bailed out of property sales when the market and profits collapsed. For nine months, seven days a week, he has supervised "trash-outs" in a trade more delicately known as property preservation.
Caprotta, 50, invested $70,000 with a partner in his Portland venture, Global Property Preservation. He thought it could be lucrative. But trucks break down. Pay comes late or not at all. Expenses rise. For all his effort, he's not making money.
Still, Caprotta prides himself on compassion for people losing their homes. After all, he's losing his own.
Windol Cador, of Duke Development in Portland, once did new construction but got into property preservation seven years ago. He has 10 guys in two crews.
Sometimes they spend five days working on one house. "We want the neighbors to be happy," Cador says.
Cador's crews put aside items of value for previous owners. "You find cool things," he says. "We recently found a whole printing press in a garage. One guy had a comic-book collection that he probably spent years collecting."
Some trash-out guys say they make real money.
Caprotta sees the foreclosure crisis as a giant game of musical chairs in which some people got caught without chairs. No one cried when the housing market soared, he says. Yet when excesses bring tragedy, he says, everyone blames someone else.
Caprotta says neither the government nor trillions of dollars will fix the situation. Instead, he says, it will take a "shift in consciousness ... where we put the hopes and safety of all of us ahead of the individual."
"Sometimes," he says, "that involves some personal sacrifice for the greater good of all."