All across our lovely, sun-drenched peninsula, acres and acres of cookie-cutter suburbs sit wilting in the humidity, bereft of human beings. They're "zombie homes": properties mired in foreclosure whose owners have simply walked away, leaving the rotting places to become havens for drug dealers and squatters.
Florida has more zombie homes than any other state in the nation by a huge margin, a new study shows.
Florida has 90,566 zombie homes on the market, according to an analysis released this week by RealtyTrac, a California-based real estate information firm.
That's almost triple the second-most zombie-infested state, Illinois, which had 31,688 empty properties up for foreclosure; California was third with 28,821.
And the estimates in Florida might actually be low. RealtyTrac didn't count any properties that have been in foreclosure limbo for more than the state's average of 850 days. Foreclosures can drag out for years in the Sunshine State, which means God only knows how many zombie houses are actually cluttering your neighborhood.
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The data follows a special report by Reuters earlier this year into the zombie home problem. When homeowners abandon their property rather than fight a foreclosure -- or at least seeing out the process -- the place usually deteriorates quickly.
Neighbors and city governments are left with the burden of trying to cut lawns and keep out vagrants and gangs, and nearby property values can plummet.
"It certainly is affecting individual communities and neighborhoods," Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac's vice president, tells Reuters.