‘Zombie’ Foreclosures Are Rising Again

February 27, 2020

More vacant foreclosures are appearing in some markets. But while pockets of property distress continue to haunt those areas, economists say there’s no need for panic.

Vacant homes in foreclosure limbo—labeled “zombie foreclosures”—rose 3.1% in the first quarter, according to a newly released report from ATTOM Data Solutions, a real estate data firm. About 282,800 homes are in the process of foreclosure, and 8,700 are sitting empty as zombie foreclosures, the report notes.

While the percentage has risen, it is still down from 5.8% in the first quarter of 2014, when zombie foreclosures were much more troublesome for the housing market.

The number of properties in the process of foreclosure in the first quarter of this year is falling, but the number of vacant foreclosures that occupy that number is rising, the report indicates.

“Homes abandoned by owners facing a possible foreclosure remain little more than a blip on the radar across the country, as one of the main scourges of the Great Recession continues to show little or no signs of re-emerging,” says Todd Teta, chief product officer with ATTOM Data Solutions. “Even with the slight increase in these so-called ‘zombie foreclosures,’ so far this year, there are still pockets of distress with elevated numbers of abandoned homes. But in yet another reflection of how the national housing market is still booming, you can drive through many towns and not pass a single such property.”

By metro level, Peoria, Ill., has the highest percent of zombie foreclosures at 12.7%, followed by Cleveland at 10.5%, Youngstown, Ohio at 9.1%, Syracuse, N.Y., at 8.8%, and Knoxville, Tenn., at 8.8%.

Overall, more than 1.52 million U.S. single-family homes and condos are vacant, which represents 1.5% of all homes, according to the report. Zombie foreclosures represent a fragment of that—one in every 175 properties, or less than 1 percent, according to the report.