The number of U.S. ‘zombie’ foreclosures – vacant properties in the foreclosure process but not yet repossessed by the lender – plunged 43 percent in the third quarter from the year before, according to data from foreclosure data firm RealtyTrac.
There were 20,050 zombie foreclosures in the third quarter of 2015, a 27 percent decrease from the second quarter.
Foreclosures have declined on a broad scale over the past several years, leading to fewer vacant properties overall. Vacant properties, in or out of foreclosure, made up just 1.8 percent of all U.S. residential properties.
“The overall inventory of homes in the foreclosure process has dropped 36 percent over the past year so it’s not too surprising to see a similarly dramatic drop in vacant zombie foreclosures,” said RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist. “What is surprising is there are so many vacant homes where the homeowners do not appear to be in financial distress — with only 3 percent in foreclosure or bank owned, and only 6 percent that are underwater. More than 63 percent 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.”
While zombie foreclosures made up very few of all vacancies in the third quarter, there were some states where they were on the rise. Massachusetts experienced a 66 percent year-over-year increase in zombie foreclosures and New Jersey saw them jump 29 percent.
The states with the highest share of zombie foreclosures were New Jersey with 9.4 percent of all its vacant properties, New York with 8.2 percent, Nevada at 2.7 percent, Massachusetts with 2.5 percent and Illinois with 2.1 percent.
The states with the lowest percentage were South Dakota at 0.3 percent, New Hampshire with 0.4 percent, Vermont and North Dakota with 0.5 percent each and Montana with 0.8 percent.