Why A 23-Year Old Is Buying Houses For Just $500 And Giving Them Back To The Original Owner

His investment helped save his elderly neighbors from eviction

In Detroit, for less than the price of a laptop or even a cell phone, you can buy a house. Houses that have been abandoned by owners in search of work and mortgages defaulted on by struggling borrowers have skewed the curves of real estate supply and demand in Detroit to near-cartoonish proportions. In many neighborhoods, banks have little interest in their collateral, so vacant houses are swapped at auction like used cars.

Drew Philp, a 23-year-old Detroit resident and homeowner, offers a firsthand account of the surreal effects that warped housing prices have on Detroit neighborhoods that have been forgotten by institutions, financial and civic alike. More than just an eye-grabbing title, A $500 House in Detroit offers a human perspective on the curiosity of homes—blocks and neighborhoods, even—for the taking because no one else wants them.

Since 2011, Wayne County has foreclosed on an astonishing 25% of homes due to nonpayment of property taxes. Their foreclosure not only left many occupants homeless, but the depressed pricing left the assets—the houses themselves—near-worthless when it came time to liquidate them.

A $500 House in Detroit examines Philp’s efforts in 2009 to save his elderly neighbors from eviction by bidding on their house at auction. While taking on another property in this curiously twisted market doesn’t speak to any rational financial motivations, the starting price of $500 remains an extraordinary opportunity to do the neighborly thing and maintain some sense of community amid the turmoil caused by both the micro and macro forces at play late last decade.

In such markets, sketches such as this, of Philp’s house, serve as all the due diligence available in deciding whether or not to pull the trigger on a purchase.

Drew Philps

Ultimately, Philp and a friend score the house for $2,300. It’s far more than they thought they would spend and astronomically less than most of us could ever imagine. Ownership immediately reverted back to the occupants of 30 years.

Many of us, especially those in larger metro markets, may start salivating at the thought of such affordable home ownership. These aren’t studio apartments that are on the auction block. These are homes. Two stories. With yards. Molding and such. Detroit may be in flux as an economy, but for any freelancer or remote worker, these houses seem like the golden ticket. However, as with any zero-sum game, for every big winner there exists a big loser. In these instances, the losses are spread among displaced homeowners, lending institutions with little recourse to reclaim their loans, and—the easiest to overlook—those who remain, wondering what will come of their communities.

To learn more about Drew’s experience buying this property, visit his Reddit AMA on the topic, conducted on April 11.

Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore

The common stereotypes about liberals and conservatives are that liberals are bleeding hearts and conservatives are cold-hearted.

It makes sense, conservatives want limited government and to cut social programs that help the more vulnerable members of society. Whereas liberals don't mind paying a few more dollars in taxes to help the unfortunate.

A recent study out of Belgium scientifically supports the notion that people who scored lower on emotional ability tests tend to have right-wing and racist views.

Keep Reading Show less