The new way to foreclose: Bulldozing

Increasingly, it appears that banks are turning to demolition teams instead of realtors to rid themselves of their least-valuable repossessed homes. Last month, Bank of America announced plans to demolish 100 foreclosed homes in the Cleveland area. The land will then be donated to local government authorities. BofA says the donations in Cleveland are part of a larger plan to rid itself of its least-salable properties, many of which, according to a company spokesperson, are worth less than $10,000. BofA has already donated 100 homes in Detroit and 150 in Chicago, and may add as many as nine more cities by the end of the year.

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And BofA is not alone. A number of banks are ramping up their efforts to not just rid themselves of their unwanted homes but also fully dispose of them. Fannie Mae has a program to sell houses to local municipalities for a few hundred dollars. Wells Fargo has donated 800 homes since 2009. While some of those homes have been demolished, a spokesperson for the bank says many of the homes have been given to not-for-profits with plans to renovate the homes, not tear them down. JPMorgan Chase says it was one of the first banks to donate houses it couldn’t sell or didn’t think were repairable. Since 2008, JPMorgan has donated or sold at a discount 1,900 houses to city or county officials.

The banks do the deals because once the properties are donated, they no longer have to pay taxes or for upkeep.