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Spring Break At The Foreclosure Inn

by Jacob Goldstein
Apr 8, 2011

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From this weekend's Times Magazine:

It's 3 p.m., time for a makeshift happy hour in the parking lot of Value Place, an extended-stay motel here in town and a haven for those who have been foreclosed upon. No background check is required; no credit card needed. It's the housing equivalent of a throwaway cellphone. "And that," says Elliot Abrams, Room 318, "is why it's the bomb." ...

Last year, he lost his job dealing cards at the Fort Myers-Naples dog track and could no longer afford his mortgage, association fees or electric bill. He smoked cigarettes alone in his dark condo, which he bought for $210,000 — neighboring units have recently sold for less than a quarter of that. One afternoon, he went out for a meatball sub and returned to find a padlock on his front door.

Overwhelmed, he admits bankruptcy is his only option, but doesn't know how to begin the process.

"Go to a lawyer," Jerry Raymer, Room 128, says as he details his Corvette with a toothbrush. "They'll show ya real quick." Raymer is a retired car salesman. He is also my father. I used to visit him at his three-bedroom on Spoonbill Lane, seven miles down the road. He would grill steaks on the patio while I would soak in the hot tub. But after he lost his job at Plattner Automotive, he lost his home — one of 1,421 foreclosure filings in Lee County in February 2010. So this year, I'm spending spring break in Room 313.

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