Nearly every neighborhood harbors a Klopek family. Not by choice, but by happenstance. It is not something generally discussed in the city or county planning and zoning meetings. Neither is there redlining, blockbusting or steering at play here. It is simply pure and unadulterated coincidence. In a lifetime of homeownership, it is highly likely that every person will have at least one encounter with the Klopeks. I, for one, have had several.
By definition, the Klopeks are a fictional family from the 1989 movie “The Burbs.” Tom Hanks and Carrie Fisher starred as Ray and Carol Peterson, a couple living in the suburbs of its irrelevant, USA. When a new, slightly eccentric family moves in next door, Ray uses his entirely too much spare time to investigate their suspicious activities.
The neighborhood is nice. In real estate terms, the area would be considered “highly desirable.” The homes are likely centrally located, close to schools, parks and a library. The subdivision is a mix of patio homes, two-stories and ramblers. Home values in the area would be between $750,000 to $950,000 depending on number of bedrooms and baths, year built, square footage and lot size. Everyone in the neighborhood keeps their yards mowed, flowerbeds weeded and exterior’s maintained — everyone except the Klopeks.
There are some advantages to living in a neighborhood with certain codes, covenants and restrictions (commonly referred to as CC&Rs), where violations of such could be punishable by fines. Many neighborhoods, however, do not have these. This one, most likely, did not.
The Klopeks’ home was unkempt to say the least. The entire exterior needed a good paint job, perhaps new siding or, better yet, hardy board. The grass was nonexistent, and any foliage had long since died. Garbage spewed out from their property onto the street and the front porch collapsed when Carol stepped foot on it to bring the new family a plate of cookies, welcoming them into the neighborhood.
The glaring problem here, obviously, is that this eyesore is bringing down all the property values on the entire street. Any home in this neighborhood would be a hard sell standing next to this one (yes, even in this market). This is literally costing all of the homeowners in this neighborhood thousands of dollars in potential profit from their investment should they choose to liquidate. Scenes like this make my stomach churn.
As if the exterior isn’t bad enough, we catch a glimpse of the interior, which is no better. A poorly adorned wall features a picture of a family who “came with the frame,” and the dust is palpable. There is also a less than cozy fireplace burning at full flame in the middle of the hot summer day. To boot, the odd, sun starved Slovak immigrant family of three males offer their guests sardines as a snack. Now all senses are on high alert. Another deal killer.
Ultimately, however, it is the strange noises in the basement at night followed by digging activities in the backyard that initiate real action on the part of the neighborhood. Ray sneaks into the basement one night when the Klopeks are out, starts digging, hits a gas line, and the entire home explodes and goes up in flames. While an initial home inspection could have prevented that whole incident, the neighborhood succeeded in getting rid of the excrescence. thus salvaging the equity in their own homes. Although I do not condone the way it was done, there is now a rare and highly coveted, vacant corner lot available in a great neighborhood, close to schools, parks and a library.