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real estate

Illustrations by Jen Renninger

Total Loss

Fire does not abide by reason. In its destructive trail, there are empty bank accounts, unreturned voice mails, FedExed checks, hours upon hours of smooth-jazz hold music, fine print written in inscrutable jargon, and the summary Laurie learned to say for expediency’s sake: “My house exploded in a catastrophic fire. Can you please help me?”

Vultures Rising

On a recent October afternoon in downtown Miami, the same week the robo-signing scandal triggered a nationwide moratorium on foreclosures (a brief reprieve for homeowners, a vindication for their attorneys, and a harbinger of economic paralysis for pundits), I met up for a Sunday drive with Peter Zalewski, a condo-slinger whose company, Condo Vultures, has been feeding on the remains of Miami's real estate implosion. The day was mild, a spotless sky, mythically blue, with a sea breeze brushing the air—the climate around which an entire economy was invented. We drove along Brickell Avenue in Zalewski's Hyundai Sonata, the sunroof peeled open for a better view of the towers that loomed behind the palms along the street. You could see the bay in flashes in between the architecture.