Home for sale in Ceres: Four bedrooms, three bathrooms, bright and cheerful with vaulted ceilings; featuring a big backyard and a pool.
These last two features also were highlights on an invitation to a party at the home recently. The most important feature, though, for the teenage attendees? It was vacant.
Party organizers yanked the “for sale” sign out of the front yard and put it in the back. They knocked on the doors of nearby neighbors to say they had recently moved in, were having a party and to please let them know, instead of calling police, should the music get too loud.
But several of the neighbors, who know the homeowner and know her home is still for sale, did the opposite.
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When Ceres police arrived at the house at 10 p.m. Feb. 12, there were more than 100 high school students there, said Lt. Chris Perry.
The owner, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, arrived a short time later to find her home trashed. The sliding glass door had been pried open, screens were knocked out and a faucet was broken. The floors were sticky with beer and gum; marijuana and beer bottles covered every surface.
Using Web to track party thrower
The next day, she said, she Googled her address and found it had been posted on the Instagram and Twitter accounts of a 16-year-old Central Catholic High School junior.
He had written in the post to “respect the house” and “no drama at all,” she said. Perhaps the partygoers were confused because he also wrote, “If you act stupid who f---ing cares.”
Home sellers who move out of their homes before they are sold and have to worry about transients or thieves breaking in can add partying teenagers to the list of threats.
Perry said he has seen this happen before. Homes on the market are easily found on real estate websites, and in the case of the Ceres home, photos of the property showed it was empty.
It’s possible other such parties have gone undetected; maybe pleas to neighbors not to call the police worked and damage to other homes was discovered days later and written off as squatters.
But a loud party with more than 100 people is almost always going to catch police attention, Perry said. Usually, everyone takes off running, and those who are caught say they don’t know who threw the party.
This time, however, there is a cyber trail and the account of one conscientious kid who stayed behind to help clean up alongside officers and the homeowner.
There is some evidence the 16-year-old suspect has been doing this since 2014, Perry said, but the case is still under investigation.
The homeowner said she caught wind of a second party that was supposed to happen the next day at a home listed for $1.1 million in Modesto’s college neighborhood.
Potential party prevented
Modesto police spokeswoman Heather Graves said the department was notified. The area commander had the department’s armadillo – an armored surveillance vehicle – parked on the street and extra patrols were assigned.
If any partyers showed up, they turned right back around, and the neighborhood stayed quiet, Graves said.
The Ceres homeowner said the damage amounts to $1,800. She was told the 16-year-old was charging $10 a head, and said she wants to be reimbursed.
If there is any money left over, she said, she wants it donated to the Every 15 Minutes anti-drinking program, for which she is a volunteer. She also said she wants the boy to volunteer alongside her, but doesn’t want him to be kicked out of the sports in which he participates or his school. She said she was a troubled teen and she doesn’t want things taken away from him that will help him succeed in life; she just wants him to understand the impact of his actions.
Neither the boy nor his parents responded to requests for comment on this story.
Perry said the boy could face charges of trespassing and vandalism.
Meanwhile, the homeowner reduced the price of her home $10,000 and is paying a friend $40 a night to stay in it so it isn’t broken into again.
“We were waiting for the right offer, but now we are deciding anything close, we will take,” she said. “We just want it gone.”
Tips to protect vacant homes
▪ Talk to your neighbors. Give them your phone number, ask them to keep an eye on the house and let them know who is authorized to be there.
▪ Notify law enforcement that the home is vacant. Give them a list of who is authorized to be there. Give them your contact information as well as the contact information of a friend, family member or neighbor who can be reached if you are not available.
▪ Maintain outdoor lighting. Use lights on timers as well as motion-activated lights. Keep all entrances lit, not just the front door.
▪ Keep your home security system active. It is worth the extra cost considering the damage that can be done.
▪ Check your insurance policy. Some insurance companies specialize in offering “vandalism and malicious mischief coverage” that protects an unoccupied home.
Source: Ceres Police Department and Safewise.