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'Zombie' homes left to foreclosure common in Florida

As most of us know, the foreclosure crisis hit Florida about as hard as any U.S. state. In fact, it is still a big problem. The state has one of the top foreclosure rates in the U.S. right now, which we discussed in our June 6 blog post.

While many people in the state are dealing with possible loss of their home, others have already given up on their properties in foreclosure. Florida has by far the most so-called “zombie foreclosures” in the country, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Of the 195,183 properties in foreclosure, 46,630 are currently empty -- sort of like a living death for the houses. That is four times the number of properties abandoned to foreclosure than the second-place state, and fully one-third of the U.S. total.

Zombie properties may represent a huge financial loss for their owners, who could be walking away from their homes without being able to save them or work out a settlement. They also cause problems for neighbors. Just like a zombie, the untended homes often waste away. Weeds grow tall in the yard. Damage to the walls, windows or roof goes unrepaired. Mold may appear. All of this could affect the resale value of nearby homes.

This phenomenon affects some parts of Florida more than others. For example, just 18 percent of foreclosed homes in Tampa are empty, compared with 30 percent in Miami. Overall, about 25 percent of foreclosed homes in the state have been abandoned. That may be a big percentage, but it is much lower than the 39 percent of houses in foreclosure that were empty in 2013.

One possible reason for this trend is that the foreclosure process is slower in Florida than in other states. It takes an average of 13 months to resolve. This can be discouraging for many homeowners, but those who wish to fight to save their home have rights that an attorney could explain to them.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, “Orlando ranks 6th nationwide for vacant foreclosed homes,” Mary Shanklin, June 26, 2014

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