Assignment: go on tour with realtor and reporter to homes left abandoned in North Port, FL.
If anything had “oh-no” written all over it, that did. I’ve been on the “tour-with-realtor” assignments a million times before, not getting into any house, struggling to make pictures at 65 mph. However, the realtor, Shannon Moore, saved the day. She understood exactly what I wanted, and had all the codes and keys to make it happen over a couple hours on an assignment for The New York Times (story by Andrew Martin here). She took us right into homes that are part of the 17% of all homes in Florida literally just that.
While I knew the editor wanted to see Mrs. Moore for investors – literally guys on the phone who may never see a property before selling it – I wanted to piece together a series of details that show that emptiness after the housing crash. It wasn’t hard to find. Homes devoid of an human feeling, boarded up, decaying in their drywalled cave. One was a grow house raided by the cops a few weeks prior. Another a home with doggie door boarded up. Many of them in various states of robbery.
When I moved to Florida almost 10 years ago, I would go on tours of these perfect little developments with a realtor selling them before they were even finished. Now, some of these homes can be bought for less than price of the car we were riding in.
While we’re on the subject, go check out Greg Kahn’s Pulitzer finalist essay…amazing stuff that shows the human side of all this. Here.