"Zombie foreclosures" still plaguing the Suncoast

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SARASOTA, Fla. – Have you noticed homes around yours slipping into disrepair, with overgrown grass, and broken or boarded up windows? The house is probably not the set of a future post-apocalyptic movie. Instead, it’s more likely an abandoned home, which are an all-too-common eyesore to the people living around it.

According to RealtyTrac, a company that compiles real estate data, there are over 1500 properties in Sarasota and Manatee counties that have begun the default process but have not yet been repossessed. Real estate industry professionals have a name for these properties: “Zombie foreclosures.”

"A house that is dead, not in good condition," says veteran real estate agent Cathy Lewis. "[It’s] just sitting there becoming more and more of a problem within the neighborhood."

As an agent, Lewis' job is to get the best value she can on the property and to get it priced as consistent as possible with the neighborhood.

"Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae don't take repairs lightly,” Lewis says. “They want to get good value for their money, so we have to go through a repair process.”

The foreclosure process can be lengthy, with the listing agent making suggestions on what is needed to make the home aesthetically pleasing before the property can enter the bid process.

"We can't do anything until we know that we have title, and that the sale has come through in the court system," she says.

Lewis states that foreclosed homes can get auctioned and sold quicker in communities with a strong homeowners association due to the association’s standards.

"In terms of all foreclosures people think that they are all a wreck and they can't be sold. That is not necessarily true,” Lewis says. “It really has a lot to do with the community."