This house fell victim to a double whammy, both economic and natural forces: the drop in real estate prices and a
fire on the upper levels. The home was condemned, boarded up, and slated for disposal via public auction. Christopher Frost
Where (Mis)fortune Resides?
By Christopher Frost
Because the wealth of most Americans is tied up in their homes, the collapse of the housing market that began five years ago meant net worth plunged. The value of real estate plum- meted by some 30 percent, or $6 trillion, by the end of 2010, reported Chris Isidore in
“America’s Lost Trillions” for CNNMoney in June 2011. The good news is that housing is making a
recovery of sorts. The value of holdings increased by about $400 billion, or 2. 1 percent, in the second quarter of last year, explained Neil Shah in “Rising Home Values Repair Balance Sheets” for
The Wall Street Journal in September.
Numbers don’t tell the whole staggering story, of course. Real-life images prove especially compelling: houses shuttered in countless neighborhoods nationwide; foreclosed homes selling for pennies on
the dollar of the pre-downturn appraisal; owners selling properties at a significant loss, many just as
they are entering retirement. In almost all cases, someone’s bad news turns into someone else’s good
news. Here are some examples of each (boarded-up home to be auctioned; foreclosed home; home
sold at deep “discount” by owners ready to move elsewhere for their golden years), all taken by me in
Suffolk County, N. Y., over the past few months.
The plywood on the windows on the front porch conveys a
home that has seen better times. Although the house was
in fair condition overall, the owners lost it in foreclosure.
Someone snatched the place up at a fraction of what it
would have gone for before the recession — a real steal.
Christopher Frost (former Western Regional Representative on the national level and former San
Diego State University chapter president) has taken photographs for 30 years, publishing them in quarterly
editions of Texas Books in Review, in his scholarly book, Moral Cruelty: Ameaning and the Justification of
Harm (University Press of America, 2004), on various humanitarian websites, and for campus purposes and
campus art exhibitions. Frost is the Academic Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the Long Island
campus of St. Joseph’s College of New York. A prolific author whose academic work also includes Simone
Weil: On Politics, Religion and Society (Sage Publications, 1998), he earned degrees from Baylor University
(B.A. in the psychology of religion) and Boston University (M.A. in the psychology of religion and Ph.D. in psychology and
interdisciplinary studies). Email him at email@example.com.
This home did not wind up in foreclosure or even
underwater (a mortgage larger than the current assessed
value of the property). But it was let go for much
less than the 2006 valuation when the owners, upon
retirement, relocated to be near their grandchildren.