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Zombie foreclosures down 43% in third quarter from last year

21 markets see increase in vacant foreclosures

Precisely 20,050 U.S. residential properties in the foreclosure process — but not yet repossessed by the foreclosing lender — were vacant “zombie” homes as of the end of the third quarter of 2015, down 27% from the previous quarter and down 43% from a year ago, RealtyTrac reports.

Vacant residential properties in the foreclosure process accounted for 1.3% of all vacant U.S. residential properties, with bank-owned homes, accounting for another 1.9% of all vacant properties as of the end of the third quarter.

The report shows a total of 1.5 million vacant U.S. residential properties, 1.8% of all 84.7 million U.S. residential properties. Among the 1.5 million vacant residential properties, 36.5% have at least one open loan and 6.2% are seriously underwater, meaning the combined value of loans secured by the property is at least 25% more than the estimated market value of the property.

“The overall inventory of homes in the foreclosure process has dropped 36% over the past year so it’s not too surprising to see a similarly dramatic drop in vacant zombie foreclosures,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “What is surprising is there are so many vacant homes where the homeowners do not appear to be in financial distress — with only 3% in foreclosure or bank owned, and only 6% that are underwater. More than 63% of these vacant homes are not even encumbered by a loan, owned free and clear by the owner. The fact that the homeowners are not selling given the recovering real estate market in most areas indicates that many of these properties are in poor condition and in neighborhoods that have been left behind by the housing recovery.”

States with the most vacant “zombie” foreclosures were New Jersey (3,997), Florida (3,512), New York (3,365), Illinois (1,187) and Ohio (1,028).

States with the highest share of vacant “zombie” foreclosures as a percentage of total vacant properties were New Jersey (9.4%), New York (8.2%), Nevada (2.7%), Massachusetts (2.5%), and Illinois (2.1%).

Only six states posted a year-over-year increase in zombie foreclosures, most notably Massachusetts (up 66%) and New Jersey (up 29%).

Among metropolitan statistical areas with at least 100,000 total residential properties, those with the most vacant “zombie” foreclosures were New York (3,531), Philadelphia (1,610), Chicago (989), Tampa (984), and Miami (866).

“The zombie foreclosure crisis has for all practical purposes evaporated in South Florida. The vacant foreclosure numbers are a minimal 4.2% of foreclosures in the area,” said Mike Pappas, CEO and president of the Keyes Company covering the South Florida market. “We have seen this number drop precipitously over the past few years. Due to our strong second home and international buyer market we do have a large number of properties that are not always occupied but are well maintained.”

Major metro areas with the highest share of vacant “zombie” foreclosures as a percentage of all vacant properties were Rochester, New York (14.3%), Trenton, New Jersey (10.5%), New York (10.0%), Albany, New York (7.9%), and Allentown, Pennsylvania (5.2%).

Among the 147 metro areas with at least 100,000 total residential properties, there were 21 that bucked the national trend and posted a year-over-year increase in vacant “zombie” foreclosures, including Boston (up 61%), Worcester, Massachusetts (up 43%), St. Louis (up 16%), Philadelphia (up 15%), and Trenton, New Jersey (up 11%).

States with the most total vacant residential properties were Florida (180,846), Michigan (117,833), Texas (117,350), Ohio (86,416), and California (80,750).

“Zombie foreclosures continue to limp along on their way to the final reckoning.  Uncared for, these lifeless shells are a scary eyesore to any would be seller as they scare buyers interested in nice neighbors away,” said Mark Hughes, chief operating officer with First Team Real Estate, covering the Southern California market.  “To start, the best idea for potential home-sellers with a zombie foreclosure or vacant property nearby is to find out which bank has the note and lean on them to clean up, secure and make these homes safe.  It may be worth it for sellers, to send a lawn crew over to spruce up the yard at times to help with curb appeal.”

States with the highest percentage of vacant residential properties were Michigan (3.9%), Indiana (3.0%), Mississippi (2.8%), Florida (2.7%), and Alabama (2.6%).

Among metropolitan statistical areas with at least 100,000 total residential properties, those with the most vacant residential properties were Detroit (84,291), Miami (67,139), Chicago (48,181), Atlanta (36,396), and New York (35,200).

Major metro areas with the highest percentage of vacant residential properties were Flint, Michigan (7.5%), Detroit (5.5%), Youngstown, Ohio (4.4%), Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas (4.2%), and Atlantic City, New Jersey (4.1%).

States with the lowest percentage of vacant residential properties were South Dakota (0.3%), New Hampshire (0.4%), Vermont (0.5%), North Dakota (0.5%), Montana (0.8%) and Washington (1.1%).

“Overall, zombie foreclosures are not having a negative impact on the Seattle housing market. Buyers have so few choices for homes right now that they will often overlook the eyesore next door,” said OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate, covering the Seattle market. “But the good news in Seattle is that zombie foreclosures are on the decline. And builders or flippers are buying up many of those that are still around, so it could only be a matter of time before that vacant home is making a positive contribution to the neighborhood.”

Among metropolitan statistical areas with at least 100,000 total residential properties, those with the lowest share of vacant residential properties were San Jose, California (0.3%), Fort Collins, Colorado (0.3%), Manchester, New Hampshire (0.4%), Lancaster, Pennsylvania (0.4%), and Fayetteville, Arkansas (0.4%).

“Both Realtors and individuals have learned from the past economic downturn the affect that a single property can have on surrounding home values and the domino financial devastation it creates within the subdivision,” said Al Detmer, broker associate at RE/MAX Alliance, covering the Greeley market in Colorado.  “Be a true neighbor and offer your assistance in collecting newspapers and unwanted solicitation. Assist them in lawn care during the process or share the responsibility with another neighbor. These small suggestions can make a big difference in the time the property sits on the market and the curb appeal of the whole block.”

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