I was wondering why the gas company was occasionally pulling up on our street and digging at odd hours. Yesterday they finally dug up the sidewalk and part of the driveway in the house behind ours. Upon inquiring, I was told that they had to put a new line in because their service had been shut off and the neighbors were stealing gas. Also, their electricity was off and they were drawing all their electricity from a neighbor's house. The gas can't be turned on without the electricity being on. It was apparent that things were getting weird, but I hadn't realized that things were that bad. Nobody has been in the house since then.
I don't think this family's problems have anything to do with the housing market (things went south when dad moved out), but it is more worrisome to have a somewhat trashed abandoned house next door now than it would have been two years ago. We've also got an empty carriage house across the street, and a couple doors down is a house that seems to be stalled in a half-gutted state with a big hole in the basement wall. That one might be due to an ill-advised mortgage or someone watching too many shows about flipping houses for fun and profit.
There hasn't been a hard downturn here since I moved to Providence. I don't want to find out what that's like here.