Foreclosures Mount in Central Ohio Suburbs

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This foreclosed home on Quin Abbey Court was the result of a money laundering scam.(Photo: Sadie Taylor, WOSU News)
This foreclosed home on Quin Abbey Court was the result of a money laundering scam.(Photo: Sadie Taylor, WOSU News)

Muirfield Village surrounds Muirfield Golf Club – the championship golf course that hosts the Memorial Tournament every year. The average home costs just over $450,000. Most lawns are green. The landscaping is meticulous. But, some properties are unkempt.

“Overgrown grass, all the plants, trees, everything is overgrown and dying.”

Muirfield resident Jennifer Miller is describing lawn of a foreclosed home on Memorial Drive. On the Franklin County Sheriff’s website, the house is appraised at $600,000. Miller says the owners relocated for a new job and were unable to sell the house. Since then, people have broken in multiple times.

“So police have been out here several times to kind of make sure everything’s under control. Because for the neighbors – obviously there are children that live in this area and they don’t want that kind of thing going on,” says Miller.

At least one of the subdivision’s foreclosures was the result of a money laundering scam. Muirfield resident John Warner says authorities should have noticed immediately when a house on Quin Abbey Court sold for much more than it was worth.

“The house sat empty for two years for sale for a million bucks. All the sudden, it sold for $1.6 million. That’s a little surprise, isn’t it?” says Warner.

The people associated with that and other suspicious sales were eventually indicted. The house will be rehabbed by what Warner describes as a “reputable” real estate agent. But he says the house has suffered from years of neglect.

“There are mold problems, the electricity went off, the basement flooded, they had to rip everything out. You know, when that happens, you get mold throughout the house, it goes up inside the walls and everything else. So, they’ve really got their hands full,” says Warner.

Community Research Partners says — out of 620 homes –Muirfield Village had nine foreclosure filings last year. That works out to about 1 in every 69 homes. That may not seem like much, but RealtyTrac – a website that tracks home foreclosures — says the July average in Ohio was 1 in every 460 homes.

Jung Kim is the Data Services Director at Community Research Partners, or CRP. Kim says Sheriff Sales – when a house gets sold at public auction – make up a higher percentage of Columbus suburban home sales than people might think.

“Fifteen percent of housing sales are sheriff sales. So even in those areas where people might think, ‘Oh, you know, this is not a problem here,’ – and it’s not as big a problem as in low income neighborhoods – it’s still very present,” says Kim.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development – or HUD – certifies Foreclosure Counselors to help homeowners save their houses. Denise Gastesi is a Foreclosure Intervention Specialist at the Franklin County Treasurer’s Office. Gastesi says sometimes upper-income homeowners are hesitant to use those services.

“And I think in the suburbs sometimes they’re even more reluctant to seek help because they think that, ‘Well, I’m not low-income, I don’t need to go to one of those agencies.” And it’s important for them to know that HUD-certified just means that they’re not one of the scam artists out there,” says Gastesi.

CRP reports there have been 28 foreclosure filings in Muirfield Village in the past three years – just under 5% of homes in the development.