|City/Town: • Apollo Beach|
|Location Class: • Residential|
|Built: | Abandoned: • ~2014|
|Status: • Demolished|
|Photojournalist: • David Bulit|
This mansion in Lee County was a victim of the subprime mortgage crisis, a nationwide financial crisis that occurred between 2007 and 2010, and contributed to the Great Recession. The crisis was triggered by the collapse of a housing bubble in the 2000s, leading to a massive number of foreclosures and people who were unable to pay their mortgage.
Historically, people who have below average credit scores, provide small down payments, or sought high-payment loans found it difficult to obtain a mortgage. That changed in the early-2000s as high-risk mortgages became available from lenders who funded mortgages by repackaging in groups that were then sold to investors. Houses were also thought to be good collateral at the time so lenders thought to give anyone a mortgage because if they defaulted on it, the lender would foreclose on the property which was increasing in value. These mortgages are known as subprime mortgages, often times having low initial interest rates to trick the buyer into thinking they could afford them before the interest rates rapidly increased over a number of years.
Initially, investors profited because rising house prices protected them from losses. When high-risk mortgage borrowers could not make loan payments, they simply sold the house at a gain to pay off the mortgage and pocketing the profits. When house prices peaked though, selling homes for settling mortgage was less viable and mortgage loss rates increased for both lenders and investors. New Century Financial, the largest U.S. subprime lender, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy with several subprime lenders began closing in its wake. Lenders were no longer offering subprime or high-risk loans which lowered the demand for houses, therefore lowering the price of houses. Prices plummeted so far so buyers could no longer sell their homes to fully pay off their mortgage leading to an unprecedented number of foreclosures across the nation.
No place was hit more than Lee County, Florida, considered by many as the foreclosure capital of America. According to one study, the county had the highest foreclosures rates in the country between 2008 and 2013. One zip code in the county had up to 42% of properties go into foreclosure. By 2009, unemployment had risen to 11.7% and Fort Myers became the example President Barack Obama used for his need for his stimulus package.
The reason the county became the foreclosure capital of the nation was because of its two communities, Lehigh Acres and Cape Coral, both developed in the 1950s with the latter being developed by Gulf American Land Corporation, the same corporation that planned the failed Golden Gate Estates and constructed the Port of the Islands Hotel. Homebuyers could put a $50 down payment so the population steadily grew from 23,404 in 1950 to 440,910 in 2010, and since then, the population has skyrocketed to 770,577. The cities that got hit the worst were the ones where people wanted to live the most and Lee County was no different.
This mansion had a story similar to millions of others. The family bought this home 2002 but by 2007, the housing market had collapsed. After just a few missed mortgage payments, the property was foreclosed on in 2014 and subsequently demolished in 2016.