Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

What messes they find in foreclosed homes

At the height of the building boom, Mark Brandon crisscrossed the state and closed deals daily. • He helped secure mortgages for eager buyers. He wore suits as he signed off on sales. • Now the 41-year-old Riverview resident — a descendant of Brandon's founders — wears T-shirts and shorts on the job. Banks call him and ask for help. And this is how his days begin: "I walk into a house and think, 'Man, what happened to them?' " Then he gets to work. • The stench of rotten meat hangs in the humid summer air. Brandon stands beside stacks of trash bags covering the garage floor of a three-bedroom stucco house. As a field supervisor for his family's company, Total Clean & Restore, he secures and cleans up foreclosed properties so banks can put them back on the market.

And he sees what owners leave behind.

"There are some goodies waiting for you in that pile," his uncle, Al Collier, says.

It seems sweet on the surface. Butterfly pillowcases and Velcro shoes. But after a half-hour of hurling items into a trash bin, one member of the cleanup crew rushes outside and vomits.

"I can't handle that smell," says Mike Patterson, 30, who worked as a carpenter during the building boom.

Outside the garage, Trish Brandon — Mark's mom — looks on and offers advice.

"Definitely make sure you guys disinfect your feet," she says.

Underneath the garbage bags, they find packages of rotten turkey and chicken, with a dead snake beside them.

A morning jogger stops on the sidewalk and asks what happened.

"It was a foreclosure, so we're cleaning it out," Trish Brandon says.

The jogger watches the cleanup crew. He shakes his head. "Wow. They didn't take care of much, did they?"

• • •

Beside half-full bottles and cracker boxes on the kitchen counter, there's an Easter card with a photo of a smiling couple.

"I wonder if that's them," Trish Brandon says.

The ones who left behind tike-sized tents and a tiny New York Yankees lunch box, stuffed with baseball cards and felt-tip pens.

The ones who owned a Glenn Miller record and a magic wand filled with glitter.

The ones who took the refrigerator, left its contents beneath a pile of garbage bags on the garage floor and closed the door behind them.

"This is one of the worst ones I've done," Mark Brandon says. "This is a big one."

• • •

Sometimes owners leave homes in model condition.

Sometimes they rip out ceiling fans and stove tops.

Sometimes they leave an angry message, like a jam-packed refrigerator full of maggots or a chicken carcass with pins in its eyes.

The company charges a flat fee of $500 to $600 for basic cleanups but puts in a higher bid if more work is required, such as rebuilding pool fences or significant interior cleaning.

After a bank contacts them, they have 24 hours to secure the property and five days to clean it.

Business is booming, Brandon says. Since starting in November, they've handled about 150 homes.

It's a far cry from the work he did as a mortgage broker, real estate closer and notary.

"I don't think I ever want to do that again," Mark Brandon says. "This is my future. We just need to go where the market takes us."

In a back bedroom where the floor shines and the air smells like lemons, he flips a light switch and snaps a photo with his digital camera.

A Realtor stands outside, where the faint smell of rotten meat lingers.

What messes they find in foreclosed homes 08/07/08 [Last modified: Sunday, August 10, 2008 1:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  2. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  3. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title


    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  4. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.

  5. IT failure blamed for British Airways cancellations (w/video)


    LONDON — British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend.

    Passengers wait at a British Airways check-in desk after the airport suffered an IT systems failure Saturday at London''s Gatwick Airport. [Associated Press]