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Lots of San Diegans these days know a neighbor or a friend or a cousin who has been living, payment-free, while their house progresses through foreclosure.

Often we call this the shadow inventory — where owners have been issued foreclosure notices but haven’t actually been evicted, and the homes haven’t made it to market.

But what lurks in the shadows could be even bigger than the homes that have already received foreclosure notices and just haven’t yet been repossessed.

I heard an especially interesting take from reader Dieter Haschke, who wrote me recently to describe some “scary thoughts.” A couple of weeks ago, Haschke bought a refrigerator from a guy on Craigslist who lives near Qualcomm Stadium.

Haschke wrote:

Just ran across a guy living above Mission Valley who has just gone through a divorce and is selling real estate to keep himself somewhat afloat. He will start getting a retirement check in May from a previous employer. He told me he has not made a house payment since December of 2008 to Bank of America.

He has been watching through the web, looking to see if a notice of default is recording by B of A and so far they have not recorded a NOD, which apparently gives him 30 days to cure the default. After that the bank has 90 days to be able to sell the property.

He calls himself being part of the shadow inventory and he believes that the inventory is larger than the last batch. He will continue staying in the house, rent free until they boot him out. In the meantime he is banking his extra money and totally expects to move into an apartment.

I know someone else in University City who has stopped making payments on their house about 5 months ago, also in a divorce and living rent free for now.

The guy above the stadium said … banks don’t want to force people out right now because the worst thing at this point is to end up with a bunch of vacant homes, flood the market like the last time — end up with more of the same. I think he has a contact at the bank that he keeps in touch with to see what is happening on the inside.

Scary times if you ask me. How many more people are out there doing this? It is totally unknown to the rest of us since they don’t show up as a foreclosure.

What do you think of this scenario? Do you know someone or are you in this same boat? Leave a comment and share your perspective.

— KELLY BENNETT

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