Marketplace Scratch Pad

What foreclosure smells like

Scott Jagow Apr 27, 2009

One part algae, one part rotting, water logged leaves, and occasionally a drowned animal. That’s how a new documentary from American Radio Works describes the smell coming from abandoned swimming pools in Las Vegas. Sin City has become Foreclosure City.

Producer Krissy Clark spent more than a year tracking people in Las Vegas as they dealt with the prospect of losing their homes. They moved to Vegas seeking the American dream of owning a home or because they could get much more house for their money. Job growth was several times the national average. Now, it’s the foreclosure rate. Now, what happens in Vegas is that people can’t stay in Vegas.

Besides homeowners, Clark talked to Rob Cole, an environmental health specialist. Cole says he used to treat a few rotting pools a month. Now, sometimes, he’ll treat 20 a day. From the documentary:

Cole: I get like twenty reminders a day of how not to buy a home, and how to save money first. That’s the main thing, I’m like, when I buy a home I’m going to make sure I have the finances.

Through the back windows of this house, with the pool you can see into the dining room. It’s empty. But there’s something scrawled on the wall in black spray paint. It says: “After 15 years here. Thanks.”

Foreclosure City leaves certain images burned into your eyes.

And, Clark says, there’s a sound to foreclosure too — the beeping of smoke detectors all over town. There’s no one to replace the dying batteries.

“Foreclosure City” is a poignant documentary. I highly recommend listening to it. You can do that or read the transcript here.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.