A couple of years ago, real-estate investors were so hot on Orlando that hundreds of buyers from around the world paid an average $300,000 -- triple today's prices -- for old condos on a run-down corner next to a truck-driving school.

The infusion of outside dollars contributed to a doubling of prices over five years. When investors could no longer flip properties by selling them for more than they paid, and when rental income dropped because of a mass of "for rent" signs, the market collapsed. Empty houses now glut the market. Condo towers remain darkened. And homeowner associations complain about overgrown lawns and unpaid dues at investor-owned houses.

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