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Wichita real estate officials view latest ranking of ‘abandoned’ homes with skepticism

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, July 14, 2014, at 1:23 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, July 14, 2014, at 5:09 p.m.

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Wichita has the distinction of having the highest percentage of vacant foreclosed houses in the nation, according to a report from an online company, but area real estate officials said Monday that the numbers don’t say much – if anything – about the state of the area’s housing market.

Wall Street 24/7, an Internet-based financial news and opinion service, said based on its analysis of data of 100 metropolitan areas, Wichita had the highest percentage — 49 percent — of foreclosed homes that were vacant. It said of 301 properties in foreclosure in the second quarter of 2014, 146 were vacant. The data studied came from the real estate company RealtyTrac.

“Honestly I don’t think it means very much,” said Stan Longhofer, director of the Center for Real Estate at Wichita State University. “Percentages are always misleading when you deal with that low of a base.”

For example, Longhofer added, “If we had two houses in foreclosure in Sedgwick County and all of a sudden, next year we had four, that would be a 100 percent increase.”

Some publications, such as USA Today, have picked up the report, calling the vacant homes in foreclosure, “abandoned.”

Greg Fox, president of the South Central Kansas Multiple Listing Service and owner of real estate brokerage Realty World Alliance, said, “We don’t have very many foreclosures going on if we’ve got 300.”

According to RealtyTrac‘s website, as of May one in every 4,697 houses in Sedgwick County was in foreclosure. That compares with one in every 2,861 houses in foreclosure in Kansas, and one in every 1,199 houses in foreclosure in the U.S., according to RealtyTrac.

Longhofer said once a house goes into foreclosure, it doesn’t mean the house is immediately vacated by the home owner. The foreclosure process takes months, and it’s generally not until much later in the process — after the lender has filed a court action to foreclose — that the owner is evicted.

“I think given the numbers we’re dealing with here, they were previously renter occupied or purchased for that reason, or it (the vacant house) was in a situation where the previous owner moved out ... (and the house is) not inhabitable,” he said.

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