While many experts talk about the recovery the real estate market is experiencing there is still an obvious sign of what happened following the mortgage crisis of 2008. Zombie houses, or houses that are abandoned and not yet foreclosed, still litter some neighborhoods. As recent as early 2016, the Tampa Bay area holds the unfortunate distinction of having the fourth largest number of zombie houses in the country.
The plague of the zombie house can be far reaching into the neighborhood. Lack of proper and regular maintenance can lead to unsafe conditions and even affect other properties, especially those sharing a common wall or other boundary. Abandoned and unsecured houses can attract a host of unauthorized people to enter the property for their activities. Wild animals can also find shelter in abandoned properties in or in the unkempt yards. In addition to the unsafe and undesirable conditions of a zombie house, it can also greatly reduce the value of your well maintained property. If a house in your neighborhood begins to show signs of becoming a zombie, what can you do about it?
In our post about neighbors affecting the sale of your home, we suggested that you talk with a neighbor who’s home was showing signs of disrepair or neglect. Not all unkempt houses are zombie houses. Reaching out to a neighbor can tell you if the house is vacant or if the owner is elderly or otherwise unable to perform the needed maintenance. From there, you can get a better idea of how to proceed. If the property is vacant, reach out to your local building or code enforcement office who most likely responds to these types of situations. If it’s simply a neighbor in need of some assistance, roll up your sleeves and lend a hand.
In Tampa and many other local communities, property owners are required to register a vacant home. The idea is that officials will know who to hold responsible when repairs are required. If the municipality is forced to make the repairs the bill will be collected against the owner. One of the defining characteristics of a zombie house though is the failure for the mortgage company to have completed a foreclosure in a timely manner and transfer ownership into their name. A recent ruling by the state’s Appeals Court found that liens placed on a home prior to completing a foreclosure are not divested at the Sheriff’s Sale. This puts more pressure on banks to keep houses in good order no matter what stage of repossession they may be. If you learn about a zombie house in your neighborhood, advise your local municipality who will monitor the property and address any code violations.
An abandoned home is attractive to a number of people, from squatters to copper thieves to kids just looking to explore. It’s best to keep an eye out for suspicious activity in or near a zombie house. If you do notice people who should not be in the house, contact the police…do not confront anyone you don’t know. By helping to keep the property secure, you help ensure that the mortgage company does not need to spend more time repairing it before listing it for sale and lengthen the life of a zombie house.
Your options may seem limited and realistically they are when it comes to a zombie house. Staying aware of the status of your neighborhood and keeping in touch with the proper authorities can make a difference in how long a zombie house affects your neighborhood.