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Foreclosures cause issues for Eastside communities
Like most Central Ohio communities, both Pickerington and Reynoldsburg’s real estate markets have suffered over the past several years.
Between November of this year and last, compared to November 2005 and 2006, home values in Pickerington fell approximately 11 percent and in Reynoldsburg 15.7 percent, said Jay Stanley, a real-estate agent with ReMax Champions.
In addition to the loss of value, sales in both areas overall have also suffered, Stanley said.
In 2006, 681 homes sold in Pickerington and to date this year, 490 homes have sold.
Reynoldsburg has experienced a similar decline. There were 432 homes sold in 2006 and this year, only 299 homes have sold.
Although Stanley says the market has seemed to level off over the past year and that it could be an indicator that the market is close to a bottom, the aftermath will remain.
Vacant, foreclosed properties and short-sales are still in surplus, he said.
“We need to get more of the foreclosed homes and short-sale homes sold and off the market in order to get things turned around,” Stanley said.
As these properties remain on the market, the issue of how to keep them up to code so they don’t negatively impact the communities around them becomes more apparent.
Vacant and foreclosed homes pose several problems for communities, said Chet Hopper, Pickerington’s chief building official.
Hopper said when vacant or foreclosed homes are not maintained, it can cause a decrease in property values as well as potentially invite crime, such as vandalism.
He added that there are a number of maintenance issues that cause concern, including tall grass or even the mounting pile of phone books and newspapers left behind on the door-stoops of vacant properties.
In an effort to contend with the problem, Pickerington’s safety committee is mulling over a property maintenance code that intends to “establish a process to limit and reduce the amount of abandoned personal and real property located with the city.”
The proposed legislation states that “it is the city council’s further intent to specifically establish an abandoned residential property program as a mechanism to protect residential neighborhoods from becoming blighted through the lack of adequate maintenance and security of abandoned properties.”
If approved, the legislation would allow the city to work with the banks that own some of the vacant homes and build a relationship, Hopper said.
Hopper explained that when a home is foreclosed on, often times, it is time-consuming and extremely difficult to make contact with the bank that owns the property so that communication can be conveyed about the needed maintenance to the property.
Therefore, the proposed legislation specifies that the mortgagee perform an inspection on the property upon default by the mortgagor prior to the issuance of the notice of default.
If the property is then found to be vacant according to the terms defined in the legislation, it then must be registered with the city of Pickerington within 10 days of the inspection.
Hopper explained that he believes the legislation would help the city make contact with the banks and to make them aware of the reporting procedures.
Those procedures would require the name of the mortgagee, their address and in the case of out-of-state mortgagees, the name and contact information for the local property management company responsible for the security and maintenance of the property.
In addition, an annual registration fee of $150 shall accompany the registration form, which would be valid for the calendar year and then renewed on Jan. 1 of each year.
The legislation also sets forth specific guidelines for the maintenance and security of the properties.
The legislation will be discussed again at the Dec. 22 meeting.
Reynoldsburg Safety Service Director Pam Boratyn said similar legislation was presented to Reynoldsburg council in 2008.
However, it was not adopted, she said.
Boratyn said it is possible that the issue may be revisited again in the next year.
In the meantime, she explained that an ordinance was passed in early 2009 that permits the city to immediately cut the grass on a vacant property rather than first providing a seven-day notice.
Boratyn contended that such an ordinance does help in keeping up the appearance of the vacant properties.
She added that the city has also, over the past year, stepped up its enforcement in general.
“We give them a notice that they need to fix their roof or gutters or clean-up or take care of the trash or keep their homes in good shape, and then if they don’t do it, pursuant to that notice that you’ve given them, then we issue a citation and we come into court,” she said. “We’ve been pretty successful in doing that.”
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