First Person: Coping with Zombie Foreclosures in Our Neighborhood

Yahoo Contributor Network

A new national survey shows that more than 300,000 homes in the United States are zombie properties. According to a recent article by Reuters, homeowners have moved out of the homes in foreclosure. Many of the foreclosures are vulnerable to vandalism.

In my own Florida neighborhood, we have been dealing with about a dozen zombie foreclosures. Several homes have remained vacant for 5 or 6 years. Florida, apparently, tops the list of zombie foreclosures. The homes in my neighborhood are on a list that includes more than 90,000 vacant homes.

It's been upsetting to watch our new neighborhood age prematurely because of the housing crisis. However, we have new hope now that there are signs of a housing recovery.

Fixing up the homes

Although we have dealt with homes being vandalized for the past several years, I've noticed a change this past year. The home just across the street from me was completely renovated just last week. I walked over and talked to the workmen to find out how extensive the renovation had been. They said all of the mildew had been removed, which is a concern when Florida homes sit vacant with no electricity. As a homeowner, I'm pleased to see teams fixing up the homes.

Keeping the housing values up

All of the homes in my neighborhood are newer homes. However, because they sat vacant for so many years, the homes needed extensive work. By investing money into the renovations of the homes, the banks can sell the houses for more money. We have noticed the value of our home has increased dramatically in the past year. As each "zombie" is transformed into a livable space again, our home value increases. During the housing crash, the value of our home sunk to $108,000, but now it's up to $135,000.

Building equity in our home

We were underwater on our home for several years. According to the article, 10.9 million homeowners are still underwater. Being underwater puts them at risk for foreclosing on their houses. My husband and I were able to go from having negative equity to positive equity in our home by paying a little extra every month. By the time we went to refinance earlier this year, the value of our home had increased so that we had 20 percent equity again.

Although we could have been impatient about the value of our home, I'm glad we waited it out. We weren't happy about the fact that we bought a home for $183,000 at the top of the market. However, our ultimate goal is to have no mortgage at all. As I watch workmen remove old carpet, paint, repair mailboxes, pressure spray the driveways and put in new landscaping, I feel better about my neighborhood. We have been able to fall in love with our neighborhood all over again now that the zombie foreclosures are being eliminated.

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