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Zombie Foreclosures Decline in Q4

ATTOM has issued its Q4 2021 Vacant Property and Zombie Foreclosure Report, which finds 1,312,410 residential properties in the U.S. currently sit vacant--1.3%, or one in 75 homes--across the nation.

The report reveals that 223,256 residential properties were in the process of foreclosure in Q4 of 2021, up 3.6% over Q3, and up 11.6% from Q4 of 2020. Among those pre-foreclosure properties, 7,432 sat vacant in Q4 of 2021. The share of pre-foreclosure properties that have been abandoned into zombie status dropped slightly from 3.5% in Q3 of 2021, to 3.3% in Q4.

Among the nation's total stock of 98.8 million residential properties, the portion represented by zombie foreclosures remained small, as just one of every 13,292 homes in Q4 were vacant and in the process of foreclosure, down from one in 13,060 in Q3 of 2021.

"Zombie foreclosures are in a holding pattern this quarter—at least for now," said Todd Teta, Chief Product Officer with ATTOM. "They're still totally off the radar screen in most parts of the country, with none in most neighborhoods. But that's probably going to change soon because lenders can now return to court and take back properties from owners who can't keep up on their mortgage payments. Foreclosure activity already is on the upswing. So, depending on how fast cases wind through the courts, it's probably just a matter of time before zombie properties begin creeping back into the mix. As always, we will be on top of this trend."

In Q4, 7,432 residential properties facing possible foreclosure action were vacated by their owners, down from 7,538 in Q3 of 2021, and from 7,612 in Q4 of 2020.

"Market dynamics—strong demand coupled with historically low inventory of homes for sale—suggest that we shouldn't see a significant increase in zombie foreclosure properties anytime soon, even with foreclosure activity increasing," said Rick Sharga, EVP at RealtyTrac, an ATTOM company. "Most financially-distressed homeowners should be able to sell their home, rather than go through a lengthy foreclosure process where they'd ultimately abandon the property."

Among states with at least 50 zombie foreclosures during Q4, the biggest decreases from quarter-to-quarter were found in the following five states:

  • Georgia, where zombie foreclosures were down 29%, from 91 to 65
  • Kentucky, down 10%, from 58 to 52)
  • Oklahoma (down 9%, from 114 to 104)
  • Connecticut (down 6% from 66 to 62)
  • Illinois (down 6%, from 805 to 758).

Six of the seven states with the most zombie foreclosures were located in the Northeast and Midwest, as New York continues to have the highest number of zombie properties in the U.S. with 2,049 in Q4 of 2021, followed by Ohio with 925, Florida with 907, Illinois with 758, and Pennsylvania with 356.

ATTOM’s report analyzes publicly recorded real estate data collected by ATTOM—including foreclosure status, equity, and owner-occupancy status—matched against monthly updated vacancy data.

Click here to view ATTOM’s Q4 Zombie Foreclosure Report.

About Author: Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck has 20-plus years’ experience covering the mortgage industry, he most recently served as Editor-in-Chief for The Mortgage Press and National Mortgage Professional Magazine. Peck graduated from the New York Institute of Technology where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts/Media. After graduating, he began his professional career with Videography Magazine before landing in the mortgage space. Peck has edited three published books and has served as Copy Editor for Entrepreneur.com.
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