As Seen In Lorain: 3620 Clifton Avenue and the second second chance

I am not employed by the City of Lorain in any way, shape, or form.
I definitely am NOT a building inspector. I do not know the individuals who own this property, nor do I have any personal issues with them.

I am a Lorain blogger with a vested interest in the improvement of my city.
This blog belongs to me and I speak for myself. I am trying to understand what criteria the City of Lorain uses to decide who gets a second chance to rehabilitate their property and who doesn’t. Apparently, all I have to say is that I have some money (I don’t have to prove it) and show the city my plans and that’s good enough.

Yesterday was the Demolition Board of Appeals meeting at City Hall. I was about a half hour late and missed five of the six appeals, one being a review of the plans for 3620 Clifton. I was disappointed to find out that this house has been given yet another stay of execution. A second second chance.

According to this article, “…owners of 3620 Clifton Ave. will get another five weeks to make repairs to that South Lorain home. For a second week, the condition of the structure sparked the most discussion in the demolition appeals board meeting.”

I had gone by the house on Tuesday and was surprised to see they had started on the exterior. Click on any of the following images to see them bigger, if you dare. 😀
3620 Clifton new roof start

3620 Clifton roof from back

This house sits on a slab and has foundation damage on every side.

3620 Clifton foundation at back of house

3620 Clifton gas meter riser and foundation

to the left of the gas riser
3620 Clifton foundation to left of gas meter riser

(other) Side
3620 Clifton north side foundation backyard trash

3620 Clifton front porch slab broken

It is my understanding that the owners of 3620 Clifton presented an acceptable plan to the Board and will have to bring proof of progress to the next meeting on February 28th.
I will be there.

The only way the Building Department knows if these serial second chancers are completing the work to code is if they report back to say the work is done and request an inspection. The Building Department can only drive by and look at the outside of the house from the public sidewalk or an adjoining property (with the owner’s permission). As long as the outside looks good and the house is secure, there’s nothing else the Building Department can do unless they are invited inside by the homeowners. That needs to change. Stop the repeated prostitution of problem properties in Lorain. Break this vicious cycle before it completely breaks this city for good. It’s time, Lorain. We need point of sale inspections and an effective property inspection and maintenance program implemented immediately. Take a cue from other Northeast Ohio cities that are also full of older housing and building stock.

From this post:
More noodling around in search of point-of-sale inspection information led me to the City of Cleveland Heights website and their Inspectional Services.

Not only do they have all the requisite residential inspections, “Commercial properties require an inspection involving the interior and exterior of the property and are conducted every three years. Inspectional Services notifies the owner of the building when inspections are to take place.”

Imagine what our downtown could look like if we could get the property owners to address the items on this inspection checklist that are relevant to their property/ies.

Vacant buildings must be registered with the city.

Out of county property owners must register and designate an in-county agent.

“Owners of real estate in Cleveland Heights, including single-family and two-family dwellings, duplexes, apartments, condominiums and commercial properties, are required to obtain a Certificate of Inspection (Point-of-Sale) prior to entering into an agreement to sell a property. Sellers must provide the prospective purchaser with a copy of the original Certificate of Inspection (valid for one year from the date of issuance) and Certificate of Compliance (if available) prior to the execution of a contract of sale. Cost for the Point-of-Sale Inspection is $150.00 for the first unit and $50.00 for each additional unit. For example: a two-family residence would cost $200.00, a four-unit apartment building would cost $300.00.”

Stay tuned…more updates to come…

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16 Responses to As Seen In Lorain: 3620 Clifton Avenue and the second second chance

  1. Rich Robbin says:

    Some great ideas uh those other cities! Think our administration will even look at them?

  2. Loraine Ritchey says:

    we are in big trouble in Lorain..we depend upon the “honesty” option

  3. Lisa says:

    I don’t understand the train of thought that leads to the decision to demolish the ‘structurally sound but stripped inside’ house (instead of making it part of the rehab program – or maybe that program doesn’t exist anymore?) and allows the structurally damaged Clifton Avenue house the chance to be reincarnated.

    On the agenda was 2622 Lexington Avenue, where the search warrant had been served, the house had been inspected and was in the process of being added to the demolition list. Then someone came out and cleaned up the yard, put on a blue tarp roof, secured the house, put a ‘FOR SALE’ sign in the front yard and that was enough to put a stop to the city’s demolition process. It’s only a matter of time before the house is broken into again and ‘trafficking’ resumes and the city has to start the whole process over again. Our property inspection and maintenance laws need more bark and bite! The owner should have to disclose that the house was on the demolition list and what he did to get it removed from the list. Full disclosure!

    • Loraine Ritchey says:

      well the fact that this is a pass through situation there are instances all over this town of using , abusing, doing the minimum … whoring these properties…… the house that finally was demo – ed next to me – had that history I watched this little cottage which was on the historical inventory raped by landlords.from the orginal owner when I moved here ( worked for Ford) then the two firemen ( who basically did bring it to code and did the cosmetics)- then another property developer fireman( who lived out of Lorain) who did nothing except split the lot buggered up the sidewalk and yard and sold it to a LCS principle who also did very little – the fact the tenant was a senior at the time helped get him insulation and a new furnace ( which we paid for to go into a basement that was caving in) , then a guy from Vermilion who was following in his Dads footsteps of rentals—- and finally the wrecking ball………..

  4. MPK says:

    Please specify what you mean by Point of Sale Inspection. A Point of Sale can be something very simple as Brook Park has or it can be something monumentally complex such as Shaker Heights. Simply we need a Point of Sale is like saying you’re hungry. It’s not specific. If you’re not versed in the matter nor seeing the results, you could take a good thing and potentially create far worse problem. My concern is that you may be asking for something without knowing the inner workings of the Point of Sale and it’s limitations. Cities like Maple Heights, Garfield Heights, and East Cleveland will attest to it’s limitations and Lorain’s property values fall in line with those cities, not Cleveland Heights or Shaker Heights. Last year Garfield Heights removed many restrictions in response to the buyers moving to places like South Euclid. A Point of Sale though, my friends, does not address the bank-walkways and cannot. Lorain and Elyria both have a far bigger problem with those. Several homes in Homewood have been empty for six / seven years. Bank doesn’t own them, they are not required to take possession according to state law if it recieves NO BID at the Sheriff’s Auction. You’ve got homes on Palm, Gregus, and Charleston like that. More on Caroline, Washington, and Broadway. Point of Sale doesn’t fix it. The problem is much bigger.

    Loraine, I’m familiar with that little house that was next to you. You’re fortunate it was First Federal who had the mortgage and pressure could be put on them to finish the foreclosure. If the bank wasn’t local, they may have walked. As it was, First Federal took their good ol’ time taking the property back. It was years, wasn’t it? Look at 3967 Gregus. What good is a Point of Sale going to do for this property which has been empty for five years. HSBC chose not to bid at the Sheriff’s Auction and so it still sits in the borrower’s name. That could have been the little home on 4th Street if mortgaged by a national.

    The answer is not as simple as Point of Sale. I regulary sell property in Cleveland Heights, SHaker Heights, Maple Heights, Garfield Heights, Euclid, South Euclid as well as property on the west side. The Point of Sale is not a turn-key answer but I would be happy to discuss it further. Remember, Amherst and Oberlin both had Point of Sale at one point and dropped them. Beautiful towns like Rocky River and Bay Village don’t have one either. What are they doing that Lorain is not?

  5. Loraine Ritchey says:

    Hi MPK thanks for stopping by here couple of things I was not lucky the First Federal owned that property as far as I am concerned they “dumped ” the property ( blue house as they have others they “enabled” to be purchased who used and abused …and of course as they and others ( there is no difference between out of town banks and local in this regard … a bank is a bank is a bank…) they all have dumped so as not to be held responsible for said properties…..) by doing that lowers any values in this neighborhood-

    I fought long and hard for that little brown house for many years – it became the poster child of “How Blight Happens in Lorain ” – it was on the historical register before it was bastardized by the guy that finally “walked away” ( a self proclaimed contractor I might add.) First Federal’s business decisions in my opinion I find lacking and not just in those properties. Just because they are local isn’t an advantage when it comes to these properties

    Point of Sale- you are correct I know the “realtors” fought tooth and nail not to have any point of sale inspections under Foltin- I was there …. however after asking some hard questions last week of the Building Dept and the the Administrations – I realize that my idea of inspections and the ability to hold propety owners accountable was very naive I will be publishing those questions and answers on my blog probably starting Monday …. so yes I agree point of sale will only be a tool if it is the right one for the job and can be taken out of the box!!
    I would love to discuss this further to see if you have any ideas that maybe we can suggest to the city after I have published their responses as I don’t like to always “gripe” without some sort of solution 🙂

  6. Loraine Ritchey says:

    Oh and just to clarify “That could have been the little home on 4th Street if mortgaged by a national.” the bank didn’t bid as far as I know the city purchased the property under the NSP fund and demoed it .

    • MPK says:

      Hi Loraine. First Federal was the only bid on 1125 West 4th and they took possession in 2009. In 2010, it was deeded over to the City of Lorain. From my records and my recollection of the situation, NSP funds were used for the demo but not for possession. That home sat in the City of Lorain’s possession for quite some time before they took it down. Semantics aside though, the difference between a local bank and national bank is huge in a few very important regards. The president; as well as the employees; are accessible. They are here. I’ve been able to walk into another local bank and get the answers I need. I don’t have that option with a national that uses customer service in India. For that matter, if the City of Lorain is attempting to find answers it is much easier to walk down the street to Lorain National Bank than it is to try and find someone halfway across the globe while being on hold for an hour.

      The City of Lorain, despite its’ shortcomings, could not have conceived of the problems we have today. They can, however, contribute to it and they are. For instance, 2314 East 31st still sits vacant. Now heading into at least its’ fourth year without an occupant, the City of Lorain paid $2600 over the asking price. Why? I remember that little house quite well and the work needed was substantial. The home was a train wreck and it had foundation issues to boot. I’m likely not the only citizen to think that $27000 could have been better spent. I did not see the rehab number but it doesn’t take too much imagination to figure out. They are asking $55000 for that same house that sits empty with utilities on and paying taxes to the county. If I have $55000 cash I’m not spending it on East 31st and neither are the buyers that I know and work with. The purchaser will have to take on debt, more risk than what is being taken on that little blue home at 1121 West 4th ironically enough.

      Like you, I love Lorain and I do not doubt your intentions. I spent a good amount of time reading your blog last night and I can understand your viewpoint. At one time I lived over by 7th and Washington. I know the neighborhood and it can be a tough place. This problem though, is much bigger than Lorain. It’s a State of Ohio issue and that is where this battle should be fought and won. Lorain, Elyria, North Ridgeville, Sheffield Lake, Garfield Heights, Maple Heights …. They are all trying to deal with a problem much bigger than anyone of their little cities alone.

      Good day ma’am. I’m sure we’ll be talking soon.

  7. Pingback: The Cowboys of Lorain- Part Two -The Demo Men! « That Woman’s Weblog

  8. Lisa says:

    Hello MPK and thank you for visiting The House 🙂

    Nobody has ever claimed that Point of Sale inspections will save Lorain. There is no ‘one solution fixes all’ for this city. However, a PoS inspection would have prevented the Nelis Building from changing hands without a solid plan in place for the rehabilitation or demolition of the buildings. PoS inspections are one ingredient in the remedy this city needs.

  9. Hi MPK I will not argue with you re the 4th street house in 2009 I know First Federal purchased it back from the owner that walked a way for it a contractor from Vermilion – as when the tree fell on it ( January 2008) check the blog the pictures were up one of the first posts in January of 2008 I called him and he said he was done with the property – – First Federal bid you are right under the sheriffs sale 2009 ( they apparently made a poor business decision on their client in the first place – local or not and with others in this neighborhood 😉

    BUT as that time frame is when my son was dying my focus was elsewhere in 2009 My son died Dec 3rd 2009….- but I remember meeting with Mayor Krasienko in February 2010 for lunch at the Rose Cafe where he gave me an award – the Key to the city of Lorain so I do remember that meeting 🙂 I told him of the issues with the little brown house as indigents were running all over the place , tearing what was left – what we were having to deal with –

    Mayor Krasienko went back to the city after that lunch and spoke to Howard Goldberg – who was told to look into this property there was a couple of inspections and actually Howard Goldberg came through the property as well and a few months later I was informed the city had purchased the 1125 W 4th I believe it was for$ 9,000- my understanding is the city at that time purchased properties to be demoed ( unlike the policy in East Cleveland ) although I also undersatand First Federal like many other banks wanting to get these properties off their books deeded them to the city as well for $1. …. and the city would be tearing 4th street down – it was the city that cut the grass and secured the building … took so long as there were issues with the nps funding…… that is how I remember it and how I was told it went down I probably have the emails from those discussion with the city in 2010 – I will see what I can find on the subject as I was and have been in a fog of memory since losing Chris as my readers can attest.

    I am not so enamoured of First Federal and their staff as you sorry – I believe being a local bank they should be held to a higher bar…….( my personal issues that I have with one of their managers aside )

    This problem though, is much bigger than Lorain. It’s a State of Ohio issue and that is where this battle should be fought and won. Lorain, Elyria, North Ridgeville, Sheffield Lake, Garfield Heights, Maple Heights …. They are all trying to deal with a problem much bigger than anyone of their little cities alone.

    I agree and maybe after I finish the series on the cowboys and point out what is lacking we can come up with some suggestions ……… the city answers some of my questions tomorrow on my blog

  10. BY the way MPK I have a funny feeling “you” might have been involved with the 2nd rehabbing of the blue house at 1121 after the Buckholtz lost the property to foreclosure and destroyed it ( and you did a nice job) and that group of investors???? – then one of the number Betchel??? moved in after the tenants were evicted – the roomates did some nice work on it and landscaping only to lose it in foreclosure to First Federal and then First Federal dumped it – the purchase price far exceed what they sold it for … – the roof ( is disintergrating by the way didn’t you guys put on a new roof in 2004/5??? ) and the new owners have fixed it with rolled roofing material … inspections there or to the “wiring and plumbing” that was ripped out whilst it was empty ……. but hey at least they are living with their own work so if they get flooded or an electrical fire happens then it is down to them isn’t it………. If you are the same MPK that represented the Lake Erie Landlords on the “safety committee” in 2005 ? and aren’t you the same MPK that visited the blue house earlier last year and who informed me that First Federal was selling 1121 for 10 thousand – and that conversation….. my fog of memory is clearing 🙂

    • MPK says:

      I am the same Loraine and your recollections are in part, correct. I was a member of LELA from around 2002 or 03 until about 2006 or so but I was not active on any committees. I am the same who visited the house last year as well and let you know that First Federal was planning on selling it (and we did not drive on the lawn). As I recall, when it was bought in 04 the only major exterior elements repaired were the siding and the windows. The roof was not done. I saw the interior, the vandals did do a number on it.

      There are two things I would like to dispel though. First is the idea that First Federal made a bad business decision. They didn’t. They need only $1 at minimum on deposit for every $10 they make up out of thin air to loan it out (the ratio is actually much higher now since the repeal of Glass Steagall in 1999). If they recover 10% (which they did and then some) they didn’t lose anything. The monetization schedule assures them of that. Any such talk of banks making bad business decisions with the large amount foreclosures is pure bunk. There “losses” are paper losses on money they never had until they created it out of thin air. They create money at will. It’s called fractional reserve banking and it’s what our entire system is based on. It’s fraudelent and why bank runs exist. The only time our economy grows is when more debt is accumulated. Hence, the boom and bust cycle.

      The second is that I am somehow enamoured with First Federal. I’m not. If, however, I had to deal with a lien holder I would much prefer that I could see them face to face rather than wait on hold for an hour and get a service rep out of India who speaks five words of English. First Federal, for reasons I can only imagine, draws out their foreclosures much longer than any major financial institution that I’ve seen. The houses on 4th Street are a great example but they are not the only ones. I’m sure they can produce some great excuses, much like the City of Lorain did as to why they sat on 1125 for awhile.

      Before I get to the POS issue though, I want to clarify something. There is a “myth” that those who have had forecosures acted irresponsibly and “couldn’t afford the home”. First, if anyone needs to make payments “they can’t afford it”. Car payments, house payments (refinances, too), credit cards, etc. If you can’t pay for it cash then “you can’t afford it”. It’s called “living on borrowed time” and tomorrow your world could change and you might be one of them. Secondly though, since I have worked on this side of the business I’ve seen everything from divorce, paralysis, unexpected death, lender intimidation, denied insurance claims, and abuse as a primary or secondary factor to foreclosure. That is for both home owners and investors. Loans are ticking time bombs and unfortunetly that is how most live in this day and age….

      …..back to the POS…..

      A POS would not have stopped what is happening to the blue house now though. Why? Banks like First Federal and others will simply refuse to finish the foreclosure. They’ve done it before. These guys have a number of legal tactics they can use to run it through the courts, empty the house, and never take title. The property I mentioned on Gregus is one such actual example of this technique. As I was told by a representative from another city, the financial institutions simply respond with “We’re bigger than you, we have more money than you, and we have the best law firms”. I’ve heard similar phrases in my own conversations with them.

      Let me give you an example. Maple Heights has a Point of Sale Inspection. Required with all property transfers with a few exceptions, sheriff’s sales being one of them. Bank of America takes the property back in the name of a trust. Bank of America puts it on the market and the property does not sell. One year later, Bank of America sells the “asset” to a bulk REO buyer. These transactions are quite large and involve multiple parties. Property transfers to the new purchaser who may turn around and do it again. You might also see a few signs appear on the property with “$500 down, $300 a month” and a phone number. You might not. It may be advertised where you’re not looking (just like Nelis). Before you know it, the property either has an occupant or has been sold five times in bulk purchases. Why wasn’t their a POS done when the property sold? Partially because the City of Maple Heights never knew about the sale and partially because they couldn’t find the owner. To pursue them they would have to perfect service and very few times does the tax billing address tell you much about ownership. It can be very misleading, especially when they are in trusts. I’ve seen numerous transactions like this in that city and in others where the POS is required.

      I sat in on a meeting in Elyria where they were frustrated with this very thing. They can’t pursue some of the owners because they have no way to perfect service. They can’t find them. They hide behind an LLC behind another LLC behind a trust or a myriad of other variations. That is just one technique they use. Research the MERS issue if your curious about another way they hide true ownership.

      This is why I say it is a State of Ohio issue. It’s very complex and the State of Ohio has power to regulate what the City of Lorain cannot. The State of Ohio can handle the bank walkaway issue, the chain of title, and the “no bid” problem. The City of Lorain cannot. Incidentally, the Clifton Ave property this post was about, a POS would do no good there either since it was purchased from a tax foreclosure auction. It runs the same with Maple Heights as well.

      I’m with you Loraine, I don’t like what’s happening but a POS is going to have the exact opposite effect of it’s intended purpose. It won’t force the fix up of the homes, it will cause investors and homeowners to exit. If they have to deal with a POS, why not buy in Cleveland Heights were the housing stock is superior and they are far closer to many more ammenities than what Lorain has to offer? Far better chance of getting work up there and for some, like myself, it would be much closer to work than the drive I make now.

      We never had a chat like this when I had met you those times previous in person. Ironic, don’t you think?

      BTW, a little known fact is that a bank “buys” back a property at sheriff auction they actually pay out the amount they bid. They don’t. The house is collateral…..but if you won the bid, you will. =)

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