Las Vegas still ranks among nation’s worst for share of vacant houses

The front door of a vacant home is shown in North Las Vegas, April 2, 2013.

In a sign that abandoned homes still blight Southern Nevada neighborhoods, Las Vegas has a larger share of vacant houses than most U.S. cities and a bigger percentage of homes whose debt-laden owners have bolted, a new report says.

The Las Vegas area has 16,752 vacant homes, or 2.6 percent of all residential properties in the valley. Nationally, 1.8 percent of homes are empty, according to RealtyTrac.

About 12.5 percent of empty homes in Southern Nevada also are underwater, meaning the mortgage debt outweighs the home’s value. That’s more than double the U.S. rate of 6.2 percent.

Additionally, 9.3 percent of local homes in the foreclosure process — but not yet bank-owned — are vacant, according to RealtyTrac, which calls these properties “zombie” foreclosures. The rate nationally is 5 percent.

After the real estate bubble burst, foreclosures swept through the valley, most residents with mortgages were left underwater, and homes throughout the area were abandoned.

A few months ago, Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors president Keith Lynam said there are “too many abandoned homes” in the valley, but there are signs that “banks may finally be doing more to address this issue.”

Lenders have been ramping up foreclosures this year in Las Vegas, repossessing homes that in many cases likely have been in default — and possibly empty and in disrepair — for a long time.

It's unclear whether banks will quickly put them all up for sale — a flood of listings could push down prices — or even spruce them all up before trying to unload the properties. But the rising repos could lead to long-empty homes finally being sold and occupied again.

Meanwhile, despite RealtyTrac’s findings, several cities are worse off than Las Vegas.

Flint, Mich., has the highest rate of empty homes in the country, 7.5 percent, followed by metro Detroit’s 5.5 percent. Peoria, Ill., has the highest zombie foreclosure rate, 14.8 percent, and Trenton, N.J., has the biggest share of empty homes that also are underwater, 21.4 percent.

For the report, RealtyTrac said it matched its database of nearly 85 million homes with data from the U.S. Postal Service, which flags properties as vacant if no one picks up the mail. Homes with mail-forwarding are not included.

Other data in the report were based on publicly available foreclosure and mortgage records, as well as estimated market values, RealtyTrac said.

Eli Segall can be reached at 702-259-2309 or [email protected]. Follow Eli on Twitter at twitter.com/eli_segall.

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Real Estate

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