The Price of Decay

For insight into why the city of Las Vegas created an ordinance Dec. 7 to fine banks that let foreclosed or abandoned houses fall into disrepair, pay a visit to 611 Lacy Lane near Valley View Boulevard and Alta Drive.

The house at that address—a low-slung, six-bedroom, 4,500-square-foot ranch on a half-acre lot—is a relic of mid-’70s suburban aspiration, Rancho Palomino-style: big square footage, big yard, big pool.

A walk around the side yard (no one will object) puts you under the spacious covered patio, still strung with party lights, and offers a view of the pool and built-in hot tub. Behind the pool stands a cluster of three fully mature palms. An even taller pine grows in the corner of the roomy lot near the concrete block fence.

Online, the house is frozen in a happier time. A Google street view shows a red Ford pickup truck backed up to the garage and a portable basketball hoop in the driveway, ready for a game. A listing on the real estate website Trulia shows the pool sparkling and the grass green.

The real estate wave crested at 611 Lacy Lane in December 2005, when the house sold for $725,000. In August 2007, it went for $642,000, and a year later for $355,000. By July 2011, the latest owners were gone and the house was a public health hazard. Las Vegas spent $2,355 boarding up open windows and doors, removing trash from the yard and pumping mosquito-ridden muck out of the pool. Last week, it posted a public notice notifying the vanished owners that it intends to collect that money, plus a $30,000 lien on the property for code violations, before anyone is going to live there again. The owner is gone, but the bank has yet to foreclose. Which leaves no one but the city. Each month about 300 homes in Las Vegas go into foreclosure. It’s not unusual for them to end up like the house on Lacy Lane.

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