Entries in Homes (5)


Sinkhole Swallows Florida Family’s Entire Backyard, Threatens Home

A sinkhole that opened up May 3, 2012, behind a Windermere, Fla. home has grown to about 100 feet wide and 50 feet deep. (ABC News)(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) -- For the second time this month, a Florida family is at risk of having their home swallowed by the earth.  A sinkhole sucked in Robert Matheny’s entire backyard Friday, and as of Monday, the hole was about 105 feet long and 80 feet wide, slowly edging toward the house.

“I pulled open the curtains and there it was,” said the Gainesville father.  “My first words were, do you think it’s time to move?”

The massive hole has forced Matheny and his wife out of the place they called home for the past 37 years.

“It took 12 hours to get 27 years of stuff packed up and out of the house,” Matheny said.  “I want to just move out and let somebody else deal with it.”

Metheny said most of the movement has been happening inside the hole, but still, he and his family are not taking any chances.  They say they won’t be coming back.

The Methenys aren’t the only Florida residents to be forced to evacuate their home.  Earlier this month a Windmere family awoke to find their backyard gone as well.  A sinkhole that swallowed several objects, including four trees and a hammock, had grown to at least 100 feet wide and 50 feet deep.  This incident raised concerns among neighbors, who feared they would also have to flee the area.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Sinkholes form when ground water builds up and dissolves minerals into the earth, creating a hole so large that the land on top caves in. Geologists say that years of drought without a major hurricane striking the area is what may have helped the hole threatening the Matheny home.

County officials say the family’s neighbors are not in danger.

Although the Mathenys have lost the land where they watched their children grow up, they say they’re thankful no one was there when the ground caved in.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hurricane Irene Destroys Historic North Carolina Home

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NAGS HEAD, N.C.) -- As people all along the East Coast dig out and assess the damage from Hurricane Irene, one image stands out as a vivid reminder of the storm’s aftermath.

Captured by Scott Olson of Getty Images, it’s a photo of a devastated dad, comforting his daughter on a set of wooden steps surrounded by water. The staircase is all that remains of their 108-year-old family cottage, swept away by Hurricane Irene-surged water.

The Stinson family -- dad Billy, wife Sandra and daughter Erin -- lost the cottage on Albemarle Sound at Nags Head, N.C., Sunday to the storm.

“We pretended, just for a moment, the cottage was still behind us and we were sitting there watching the sunset,” Erin Stinson said of the photo.

The Stinson’s turn-of-the-century home was built in 1903, one of the first vacation homes built on Albemarle Sound.  It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The cottage found itself in the eye of Hurricane Irene, and the results were devastating. The hurricane first made landfall on North Carolina’s famed Outer Banks, destroying vulnerable beach houses along the shoreline before whipping up the East Coast, causing 40 deaths and still-untold billions of dollars worth of damage.

The Stinsons, the home’s owners since 1963, say their neighbors and the community are helping them get through this tough time.

A May 2010 story in Our State magazine tells the story of the Stinson’s historic family home.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Retirement Home Hires Male Dance Partners for Women

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BOCA RATON, Fla.) -- A shortage of men in retirement communities across the country prompted one home to hire dance partners for a Valentine's Day dance for the surplus of female residents there.

At St. Andrew Estates in Boca Raton, Fla., older male dancing enthusiasts as well as volunteers from a local college fraternity were brought in to take the ladies for a spin on the dance floor and give them the company for which they have been searching.

"I just enjoy being with the young people," said 86-year-old resident Shirley Fogwell. "The kids who come in here are wonderful kids."

The volunteers, college students from Florida Atlantic University, also said they got a lot out of the experience, even though many aren't expert dancers.

"The older ladies were leading me on the dance floor and teaching me how to dance," said Eric Lampe. "I feel a lot of love right now."

"It means a lot," said T.J. Wilson, another volunteer. "It puts a smile on my face to see them smile."

With so few men in the retirement home, it has become difficult for the women to meet anyone with whom to have a lasting relationship. Valentine's Day can be especially hard on the residents, who are thinking of their deceased loved ones.

"We fell in love in ninth grade and we married when we were 23 years old," said Fogwell, remembering her late husband. "It's just a day of memories really, when you get to be my age you live on memories."

Women outnumber men three-to-one in nursing homes in the United States, mostly because they are living longer and are less likely to live alone. In the chain that includes St. Andrew Estates, 70 percent of the roughly 9,000 residents are female.

The volunteers have made the ladies very happy to celebrate the holiday.

"I am very lucky," said Fogwell. "I am very lucky."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Family Loses Home to Foreclosure, Neighbors Bring Them In

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(PHOENIX) -- After Michael Toczko lost his job in June as a stock broker near Phoenix, he and his family watched their home fall into foreclosure. Toczko and his wife, Kristin Hailstone, swallowed their pride and knocked on their neighbors' doors to tell them the news.

"We went to everyone and apologized for hurting their home values. We wanted them to know that we'd done the best that we could, truly, and everyone was just so gracious and all they cared about was keeping our family safe," Hailstone said.

One family did more than keep the Toczkos safe. Liz and Joe Larger, a few doors down, took them in.

"Losing a house is a big thing, but it's just stuff. It's not important...We're together, we're a family and we're enjoying each other and that's what's really important," Joe Larger said.

Today, the Toczkos pitch in with what rent they can afford and together, the two families are a kind of experiment in generosity. The Toczkos' and the Largers' decision to consolidate their family homes is becoming less and less unusual. In the cul-de-sac where they live, three of the five homes have two families per address.

Phoenix is a hotspot for foreclosures. According to RealtyTrac, in the third quarter of this year, one out of every 69 homes in the area went up for auction.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Florida's 'Foreclosure King' Investigated: Questionable Practices?

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(PLANTATION, Fla.) -- A former paralegal with Florida's largest foreclosure law practice has told state investigators the firm routinely signed court paperwork without reading it, misdated records, forged signatures and passed around notary stamps in the rush to foreclose on homes.

The charges are the latest leveled against the firm of multimillionaire attorney David J. Stern, who has amassed a fortune foreclosing on the homes of struggling families on behalf of lenders. The 50-year-old Stern even considered naming his $20 million yacht "Su Casa Es Mi Casa,” or "Your House is My House," an acquaintance told the New York Times. After his wife and others cautioned against it, Stern settled on Misunderstood. He denied to the newspaper that he considered "Su Casa Es Mi Casa."

In Florida, Stern is foreclosure king, operating the large law firm plus a foreclosure processing company and other support businesses that he recently sold off. His Plantation, Florida firm, which filed 70,382 foreclosure cases last year, is the largest of three under investigation by the state's attorney general, Bill McCollum, for allegedly filing improper documents with courts to hasten the overloaded foreclosure process.

To detractors, the 50-year-old Stern has become emblematic of the foreclosure crisis, the architect of what they call a giant assembly line that has undermined struggling homeowners at a time of record foreclosures. Nationwide, there were 2.8 million foreclosures in 2009. Florida leads the nation in foreclosures with more than 400,000 filings this year alone.

The paralegal, who worked for Stern a little more than a year, described an office where signatures on notarized documents were regularly forged, legal papers were outsourced to Guam and the Philippines, and shouting matches erupted when cases stalled. The accusations, in a sworn statement taken late last month by the Florida attorney general, coincide with mounting nationwide criticism of the practices used to take homes from families.

In the past month, GMAC, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have halted or slowed foreclosure procedures, after bank employees and affiliates admitted to signing thousands of documents without knowing the details of the cases.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio