An estimated 301,874 "zombie" properties dot a U.S. landscape in which homeowners in foreclosure have moved out, leaving vacant property susceptible to vandalism and degradation.
Florida leads the list of zombie properties with 90,556 vacant homes in foreclosure, according to a foreclosure inventory released by RealtyTrac, a real estate information company in Irvine, Calif. In some cases, homeowners vacated after receiving a notice from the bank of a planned foreclosure sale, only to find out later the bank never followed through.
Illinois and California ranked a distant second and third in zombie properties with 31,668 and 28,821 respectively. The number of homes in foreclosure or bank-owned rose by 9% to 1.5 million properties nationally in the first quarter of 2013 compared to a year ago, according to RealtyTrac.
Another 10.9 million homeowners remain at risk because they owe more than their property is worth, according to company vice president Daren Blomquist. RealtyTrac for the first time analyzed data on zombie properties after a Reuters' special report in January examined the special problem of zombie titles, Blomquist said.
While Florida leads in volume of zombie properties, Kentucky, with less than 1,000 zombie properties, leads in percentage, with zombies representing 54% of its total foreclosure inventory, Blomquist said. Zombies in Washington, Indiana, Nevada and Oregon also constitute 50% or more of the properties in foreclosure, according to the report.
Blomquist said the number of zombie properties could be higher than represented in the RealtyTrac report, which used a conservative methodology.
In Florida, for example, the company does not count any property that has been in foreclosure longer than the state average of 853 days and for which there has been no significant recent activity. The report also does not take into account cases in which a bank chose not to follow through on a foreclosure judgment, leaving the property in limbo.