Florida Zombie Problem Improving

Dated: October 8 2015

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Fla.’s zombie problem appears to be improving

IRVINE, Calif. – Oct. 8, 2015 – RealtyTrac's Q3 2015 U.S. Zombie Foreclosure and Vacant Property Report finds that the number of U.S. zombie homes – empty residential properties not yet repossessed dropped 27 percent from the previous quarter and 43 percent year-to-year.

However, RealtyTrac's latest report finds a new zombie trend: Many empty homes aren't in distress. They're simply empty.

"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," says 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…" Blomquist adds. "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 the Sunshine State had the nation's second-highest total number of zombie foreclosures (3,512), that ranking comes in part due to the state's size. On a percentage basis, Florida no longer ranks even in the top five nationally.

"The zombie foreclosure crisis has for all practical purposes evaporated in South Florida," says Mike Pappas, CEO and president of the Keyes Company. "The vacant foreclosure numbers are a minimal 4.2 percent of foreclosures in the area. 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."

While Florida ranked second in zombie foreclosures, it had the highest number of total empty residential properties, according to RealtyTrac – 180,846. It's followed by Michigan (117,833 total vacant properties), Texas (117,350), Ohio (86,416), and California (80,750).

As a percentage of total homes, however, Florida ranked fourth nationally in percentage of vacant homes, whether in foreclosure or not. Michigan (3.9 percent vacant) led the list, followed by Indiana (3.0 percent) and Mississippi (2.8 percent). Alabama (2.6 percent) rounded out the top five.

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

Florida continued to rank high, however, when RealtyTrac looked at the total number of vacant homes that were also seriously underwater (the combined value of loans secured by the property is at least 25 percent more than the estimated market value) on their mortgage. However, while the state had the top spot with 16,723, other states had more seriously underwater zombie homes as a percentage.

National numbers

Nationwide, the report found a total of 1.5 million vacant U.S. residential properties, or 1.8 percent of all U.S. residential properties. Among that 1.5 million, 36.5 percent have at least one open loan, and 6.2 percent are seriously underwater.

A heat map RealtyTrac graphic posted online displays the zombie foreclosure numbers for selected Florida cities.

© 2015 Florida Realtors®

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