Vacant foreclosures haunt Bay Area neighborhoods

Dark, abandoned, and vacant properties turn the American dream into a nightmare for neighborhoods across the Bay Area, and not just during the month of October.

Most of these real estate zombies are foreclosure homes left to decompose without owners.

In 2015, more than 3,000 homes still sat empty after the housing market crashed about five years prior. As the economy stabilized, many rose from the dead, lowering the number to around 350.

That's good news, but real estate professionals say zombies may never disappear. In Pinellas County, 9% of foreclosure homes sit empty, which is three times the national average. 

Michael Madson with Lipply Real Estate says there are several problems standing in the way of fixing the problem. First, banks usually won't lower the price of a zombie home, so as it falls into disrepair, the price seems less realistic for buyers.

Also, in the Bay Area, a home-building boom is drawing buyers to new construction.

"People coming into the market are saying, 'To heck with buying a used home, I'd rather buy a new home and have everything brand new in it,'" explained Madson,

It can be a real horror show for neighbors, like Lynne Lovett in Tarpon Springs, who has lived across from a zombie home for a year and a half.

"My own property value is a major concern. When I go to sell, that house is definitely an eyesore," she sais.

Madson says homeowners have little defense against neighborhood zombies, the banks who own them, and local code enforcement.

"You can call the county and report violations, but after a while the county stops talking to you about it," said Madson.

Pinellas County encourages citizens to submit complaints through its vacant and foreclosure registration website to track and fight blight in their neighborhoods.