It's a barometer of how tough the times are for real estate in the Inland Empire ... home builders opting to tear down brand new luxury homes, rather than complete a project that is certain to lose money.
That's what happened in Victorville last week, and pictures and videos are trickling onto the internet as the mainstream press gets a hold of this story which a citizen journalist has been covering for more than a week. More on him in a minute.
The LA Times story today offered a photo with the caption:
Folks driving past saw the wreckage and stopped. Whatever they take “saves the dump fees,” a watchman said. Candy Sweet, along with a friend, traded him a six-pack of beer for some lumber; she’s using it to fix termite damage.
The story also says "nearly 250 residential developments totaling 9,389 homes have been halted across the state, according to one research firm."
The plan in Victorville was for 16 homes, selling for about $300,000 each, but when the real estate bubble burst and hit the Inland Empire especially hard, the builders estimated they may only be able to get $160,000 for each. Four homes were finished, but the other 12 were in various states and not worth finishing, according to most of the stories I've scanned on this today.
One of the more interesting things I've run across while looking for more details about this story was a YouTube video of the actual demolition, and the commentary that accompanies it.
The YouTube subscriber who shot and uploaded this video on the left has produced a series of them which appear on his YouTube Homepage.
One of them is called "Extreme Home Makeover, Depressing Edition."
Is this demolition an example of corporate greed? Can't someone down on their luck use this house? Is this a good example of banks actually being responsible -- not throwing good money after bad -- toward a losing proposition?
Whatever the answer is, this isn't the only example of this. According to these reports on YouTube, the guy running the backhoe is set to rip out more than a dozen other homes in Temecula.
There's another story about a wrecked home that is on my mind today, and it's one we hope has a happy ending.
Our lead morning reporter Robert Kovacik has a soft spot for the creatures who can't stick up for themselves, and he emailed me this picture from Valley Wildlife Care, with the note that a tree trimmer had apparently torn up this baby owl's home.
"...he was found on the ground with a torn nest next to broken egg shells, he was still half way in the egg," said the email Robert got. The VWC people say they think he's a screech owl.
Robert's contact there told him this morning, "He is alert and has survived the first 24... He will be quite a challenge. I don't even think it was time for him to hatch because he was in a broken egg shell, so he is a premie."
If this sounds a little familiar, Valley Wildlife Care is the group that brought us the story, with the happy ending, of "Smoky," the badly singed and injured Great Horned Owl who barely survived the Sayre fire in Sylmar last fall. He was released back to the wild in January. Let's hope this little guy survives too .. thanks to people with extra big hearts for extra tiny victims, he has a pretty good shot.