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Cities with the Most Abandoned Homes

247wallst.com | July 11, 2014

By Thomas C. Frohlich and Alexander Kent

While there are a variety of options for homeowners in foreclosure,many have chosen to cut their losses and abandon their property. The housing market has been improving across much of the nation. However, some cities still have a long recovery process ahead of them as the market deals with a glut of homes in foreclosure, which can often stay in the system for several years. Meanwhile, many of these remain vacant.

While there are a variety of options for homeowners in foreclosure,many have chosen to cut their losses and abandon their property. The housing market has been improving across much of the nation. However, some cities still have a long recovery process ahead of them as the market deals with a glut of homes in foreclosure, which can often stay in the system for several years. Meanwhile, many of these remain vacant.

In Wichita, Kansas, nearly half of homes in foreclosure were abandoned as of the first quarter of 2014. In six of the nation’s most populous metro areas, at least a third of homes in foreclosure were vacant. Based on data provided by housing data website RealtyTrac for the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, these are the cities where residents are abandoning their homes.

Median housing prices in all but one of the metro areas with the most vacant homes were among the lowest in the country. In addition, housing prices fell during the last 12 months in four of the 10 cities: Boise, St. Louis, Syracuse, and Wichita. Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, explained that this drop in prices creates a problem for both banks and homeowners because neither wants to hold on to a depreciating asset. This increases the likelihood that homeowners will abandon their homes and banks may find that foreclosing on the home could be more expensive than writing it off.

The length of the entire foreclosure process is a major contributor to vacancy rates because homeowners are more likely to give up on their homes the longer they have to wait for a resolution. Blomquist explained that as foreclosure processes stretch on for years and years, homeowners begin to believe they will not be able to save the house and decide to move on with their lives.

In fact, several of these cities with the most abandoned homes are in states with very lengthy average foreclosure times. Palm Bay, for example, is located in Florida, where the average foreclosure process took 935 days to complete in the first quarter, the second-longest time among all states.

While lengthy and exhausting foreclosure processes encourage some homeowners to abandon their homes, in other cases, people intentionally move away early because they don’t fully understanding the process. With changing housing laws in many states, “homeowners may have more options than they realize to avoid foreclosure,” Blomquist said.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 metropolitan statistical areas with the highest vacancy rates among homes in foreclosure, based on data provided by RealtyTrac for the 100 most populous metropolitan statistical areas. RealtyTrac also provided metro-level median home prices, population, and foreclosure rates, all of which are for the most recent available period. 24/7 Wall St. calculated 12 month average home prices and year-over-year percent change from May of each year. RealtyTrac also provided the average length of foreclosure processes in each state, as of the first quarter of 2014. We also reviewed income data from the Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey, and unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These are the cities with the most abandoned homes.

10. Boise City-Nampa, Idaho
> Pct. foreclosures vacated: 31%
> Total vacated homes: 237 (41st lowest)
> Average home price: $114,028 (24th lowest)

Of the nearly 250,000 housing units in the Boise City region, 765 properties were in foreclosure as of the second quarter, not particularly high when compared to other large metro areas. However, more than 30% of the homes in foreclosure were vacant, among the highest owner vacancy rates nationwide. Despite owners abandoning their homes in the last few years, local real estate agents have recently reported a recovering housing market and rising home sales. In fact, unlike the majority of cities with the highest vacancy rates, home prices in the Boise area rose slightly over the 12 months through May. The average length of a foreclosure process in the state was a relatively low 471 days at the start of this year. However, it has risen considerably since 2007, when it was just around 100 days on average. Longer proceedings may be encouraging residents to give up on their homes.

9. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla.
> Pct. foreclosures vacated: 32%
> Total vacated homes: 2,041 (8th highest)
> Average home price: $108,561 (19th lowest)

More than 2,000 homes in foreclosure in Palm Bay were vacant as of the second quarter of this year, more than the vast majority of other large metro areas. The area’s foreclosure rate has been particularly high in recent years. Close to one out of every 100 area homes was in foreclosure in each of the last five quarters. At the beginning of this year, one in every 112 homes was in foreclosure, more than every large metro area except for Miami-Fort Lauderdale. The long foreclosure process of 935 days on average in Florida — among the longest in the nation — has likely contributed to the area’s high vacancy rate. Florida’s lengthy process is likely the result of the court proceedings involved in each foreclosure. Vacancy rates tend to be higher in states with judicial foreclosure systems, which tend to lengthen the process.

8. Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev.
> Pct. foreclosures vacated: 32%
> Total vacated homes: 1,670 (13th highest)
> Average home price: $156,992 (35th highest)

Nevada was hit particularly hard during the housing crisis, and posted nation-leading foreclosure and unemployment rates in recent years. In particular, the Las Vegas area’s unemployment rate of nearly 8% in May was more than in all but a handful of metro areas. And one in every 200 area homes was in foreclosure at the beginning of this year, also among the highest rates in the country. According to Blomquist, homeowners also tend to abandon their homes when alternatives and legal proceedings are unclear. This is certainly the case in Nevada, where property laws have undergone changes in recent years. Nearly one in four foreclosed homes in the Las Vegas metro area failed to sell at auction in January and was subsequently repossessed by the bank for resale, more than in all but three other metro areas. This may also suggest weak demand for distressed homes in the area.

7. Syracuse, N.Y.
> Pct. foreclosures vacated: 33%
> Total vacated homes: 94 (21st lowest)
> Average home price: $84,243 (8th lowest)

The Syracuse housing market is in exceptionally good shape. Of the nearly 290,000 housing units in the area, just 288 properties were in foreclosure as of the second quarter. This was nearly the lowest rate nationwide, as just one in every 1,766 homes was in foreclosure as of the beginning of this year. Among homes in foreclosure, however, about one third were vacant, a considerable increase from a year ago. Syracuse residents are likely subject to lengthy foreclosure proceedings due in part to New York’s judicial process. A foreclosure in the state took an average of around 1,000 days start-to-finish in the last few years, nearly the highest foreclosure process time in the country and likely a major driver behind the high vacancy rate.

6. Worcester, Mass.
> Pct. foreclosures vacated: 33%
> Total vacated homes: 394 (45th highest)
> Average home price: N/A

Compared to other large metro areas with high volumes of abandoned homes, residents in Worcester are relatively wealthy. A typical household earned $62,505 in 2012, versus a national median household income of $51,371. Despite these high incomes, central Massachusetts’ housing market has had a patchy recovery from the recession. A typical home sold at the beginning of this year for considerably less than it did a year ago. Persistently falling home prices likely encourage homeowners to abandon their homes. Also potentially indicating weaker demand large number of foreclosed properties failed to sell at auction. As a result, nearly one in 10 foreclosure sales were of lender-owned sale, among the higher rates compared with other large metro areas.

5. St. Louis, Mo.-Ill.
> Pct. foreclosures vacated: 34%
> Total vacated homes: 847 (27th highest)
> Average home price: $96,083 (14th lowest)

The number of vacant homes in the St. Louis area dropped by nearly 50% between the second quarters of 2013 and this year. Despite this, still more than a third of the area’s 2,500 properties in foreclosure were vacant as of the second quarter. Residents of the St. Louis area are subject to either Missouri’s non-judicial foreclosure process or Illinois’ judicial one. The average lengths of proceedings in both states, however, are exceptionally high and have been on the rise in the last year. A complete foreclosure process took roughly one year on average in Missouri and more than 800 days in Illinois, both among the longer proceedings compared to other large metro areas. Long foreclosure procedures in both states likely contributed to the area’s 34% vacancy rate.

4. Kansas City, Mo.-Kan.
> Pct. foreclosures vacated: 36%
> Total vacated homes: 305 (47th lowest)
> Average home price: $150,717 (42nd highest)

While housing prices in the country rose over the last two years, housing prices in the Kansas City metro area declined 9%. Additionally, the foreclosure rate in the first quarter of 2014 declined by more than 50% from the same period in 2012. Despite the drop in owner vacated homes and the falling foreclosure rate, home prices in the Kansas City metro area fell 9% since 2012, one of the higher declines in the country. Declining home prices may explain why more than one in 10 foreclosed homes in January 2014 failed to sell at auction and were repossessed by the bank, one of the higher rates on this list. This may be a sign that the housing market has not fully recovered.

3. Birmingham-Hoover, Ala.
> Pct. foreclosures vacated: 37%
> Total vacated homes: 428 (43rd highest)
> Average home price: $149,682 (44th highest)

The Birmingham-Hoover region was the only metro area on this list where the unemployment rate rose between the first quarters of 2013 and 2014. High unemployment may, in part, contribute to owner vacancies rising 19% between the first and second quarters of 2014 as owners who lost their jobs may have been afraid of going into foreclosure, as Blomquist suggested. In the first quarter of 2014, it took just 193 days to complete foreclosure proceedings. And while area home prices rose in recent years, they still remain among the lowest in the country.

2. Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Ore.-Wash.
> Pct. foreclosures vacated: 37%
> Total vacated homes: 804 (30th highest)
> Average home price: $251,888 (12th highest)

Low, declining home prices can lead to higher vacancy rates, as owners are more likely to give up on a property depreciating in value. Prices in the Portland region, however, are exceptionally high. Over the 12 months prior to this past May, a home in the area sold for more than $251,000 on average, among the most compared to other large metro areas. And prices are rising — the median home price in May was up 22% from the same period a year before, one of the larger increases among metro areas reviewed. While the region’s vacancy rate is second only to Wichita, there are signs of improvement for the Portland area. The average length of foreclosure proceedings in Oregon fell 20% over the year prior to the first quarter, which may make homeowners less likely to abandon a property.

1. Wichita, Kan.
> Pct. foreclosures vacated: 49%
> Total vacated homes: 146 (30th lowest)
> Average home price: $131,292 (39th highest)

There were only 301 properties in foreclosure in Wichita as of the second quarter of this year. Nearly half of those, however, had been abandoned by their owners, the highest vacancy rate among the nation’s largest metro areas. Like many metro areas where residents are abandoning their homes, Wichita is located in a state with a judicial foreclosure system, which tends to lengthen the proceedings. The average foreclosure process in the first quarter took 524 days in Kansas, up 34% from the same period a year before and among the higher wait times among major U.S. metro areas. Another factor contributing to the region’s high vacancy rate is likely low and depreciating home prices — as the value of a home decreases, the financial pressure of an unpaid mortgage will go up. Home prices in Wichita were 3% lower in May 2014 than they were in May of last year.

 

Back to July 2014 Archive

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