Housing flippers of the Treasure Coast

Signs of the apocalypse: Real estate speculation in Florida leads to declining school enrollment. Also: If you dig it, it is yours.


Andrew Leonard
September 13, 2007 7:44PM (UTC)

In no state did the housing flippers run more amok than in Florida. Rampant speculation on second homes intended to be resold, or "flipped," for quick profits laid the foundation for what looks to be the United States' most severe housing bust.

In some south-eastern counties, reports TCPalm.com, school district enrollments have actually been falling because of rising home prices and flipper activity that has led to empty, unsold houses.

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The numbers aren't huge. Martin County school district registered a decline of 100 students, and Indian River lost only five. But in a state where unlimited growth is considered a birthright, and new high schools pop up, as the Chinese like to say, like bamboo shoots after a spring rain, even just a slowdown -- St. Lucie County added 1,200 students, but that was just half the growth rate of the previous year -- is reason to fear the apocalypse.

TCPalm stands for Treasure Coast and Palm Beach -- the Web site compiles stories from five different local newspapers. In honor of the local zeitgeist, the bulk of the article on the flipper fallout is devoted to boosterish predictions that, despite this minor setback, future growth will resume in short order. As is only right and proper, because as anyone who has visited the region around Palm Beach knows, that part of Florida is in dire need of more development.

The Treasure Coast, incidentally, is so named because of the gold- and silver-laden Spanish galleons that sank off the coast in the 17th and 18th centuries. While digging around for further background, I bumped into the Web site of the Treasure Coast Archaeological Society, a local association of metal detector hobbyists

I learned some things that I did not know from this Web site. For example, metal detectorists feel that their way of life is under attack from government officials and environmentalists who are on an unholy mission to stop people from randomly digging holes in the ground. This has led one metal detector advocate to define a new credo, "If you dig it, it is yours," which has the double meaning of asserting property rights to what is found, and accepting responsibility for the holes you create, meaning, in other words, that you better fill them back up again.

If you dig it, it is yours. This is the new motto of How the World Works.

But even that snappy life lesson pales before the sheer grandeur of the Ten Commandments of the Treasure Coast Archaeological Society.

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Some excerpts:

1. Thou shalt not leave behind unfilled excavations.

4. Thou shalt not covet the finds of thy companion. Nor shalt ye covet his metal detector, digging tool or the hallowed ground in which he diggeth.

10. Thou shalt speak out against the unjust laws and stand firm against the philistines who would cast out all those who use detectors of metal.

And the grand conclusion!

And if thou dost not abide by these commandments, may you be plagued with mineral-bearing rocks, hard-cracked soil, pestilence, serpents, locusts, poisonous vegetation and great multitudes of pull tabs, bottle caps and rusty nails. May you spend the remaining years of your wretched life digging signals of false origin. For thy iniquities shall surely bring the overzealous wrath of the ignorant, heathen bureaucrats down upon those of us who are innocent. For we are the righteous and the just, and ye who disobey the ten commandments of metal detecting are bad.

To which I say, bravo. Bravo, sirs, bravo! And I will only add: If you try to flip it, and fail, it is yours also.


Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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