PEORIA, Ill. — A block that had once been home to more than 100 people was down to six who lived amid the ruins of another era. There were gaping holes in roofs and crumbling foundations. Some houses were so bad that even the squatters had quit on them, and now only raccoons and rodents sought them out for shelter.
And then, for reasons that no one in Peoria could fathom, people from all over America began snapping them up. By early summer, seven houses on this block of West Lincoln Avenue had sold to buyers from Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Island, Tacoma, Wash., and other far-off places.
Among them was Jayvon Michael Culver, a barber in Salt Lake City, where in the waning days of the pandemic the median price of a single-family home had raced past $515,000, far more than Culver could ever afford to spend. With a few frenzied clicks and emails, he had grabbed 2011 West Lincoln Ave. for $4,500, sight unseen.
“First house I ever…