The real estate down market many areas are currently going through poses several dangers in the form of foreclosures. Sometimes we don't pay much attention to a foreclosure in our neighborhood, but we really should. It's understandable to feel sorry for the people who have to leave their home under a cloud. It's never easy for anybody.
We ought to look beyond the emotions, however. What does it mean to the property values in the area? To the value of your own house? Usually they'll suffer. Could be very little, could be substantial. If there is only one, it probably won't have much of an effect. But should there be several, look out. Whoever, be it a bank or the homeowner, is selling wants to move the property fast and at almost any price. There is not much neighbors can do to change that sequence of events.
But there is something they can do to protect their property values when a foreclosure sits vacant for a longer time. These homes are often in less than stellar condition and tend to attract vandals and squatters and other opportunists on the prowl for appliances. This sort of activity will further depress the property's value if left unchecked. Therefore, area homeowners could team up to keep an eye on the foreclosure.
Here's an inspiring example of teamwork. When one bank refused to maintain a foreclosure yard before finding a buyer, homeowners on the same street agreed to do it themselves to preserve the neighborhood's clean-cut character. I'd call that pro-active. It may cost you some time and a few dollars, yet the savings at the end could be generous.