One drizzly December day, real-estate broker Keith McLaurin was driving a silver minivan down Arlington Avenue in Brooklyn, a few blocks from the East New York station on the Long Island Rail Road. He pulled over in front of an aluminum-sided house with a battered brown awning and called out to the young man on the stoop, whose sweatshirt read IN MEMORY OF WHEN I GAVE A SHIT.
“What’s up?” McLaurin shouted. “Is Ice home?”
McLaurin, an electrician who lives in Brooklyn, moonlights at a firm called Exit All Seasons Realty. He specializes in situations of distress. Before making the house call, he had told me that he works to match homeowners facing foreclosure with private investors who are searching for deals. “They hire me to come in and find these properties,” McLaurin said. “And they’re willing to pay me handsomely to do this.” He said three different prospective buyers were interested in this house. He bounded up its front stairs and through an entryway decorated with faded pictures of the Virgin Mary.