ATTOM: ‘Zombie Properties Remain Pretty Much a Non-Issue’


ATTOM Data Solutions’ first-quarter 2021 Vacant Property and Zombie Foreclosure Report shows that 1.4 million residential properties in the U.S. are vacant, representing 1.5 percent of all homes.

The report reveals that just 175,414 properties are in the process of foreclosure in the first quarter of this year, down 12.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2020 and 38 percent from the first quarter of 2020.

The number of pre-foreclosure homes sitting empty (6,677 in the first quarter of 2021) is also down 12.3 percent, measured quarterly, while it has decreased 23.1 percent, measured annually. The portion of pre-foreclosure properties that have been abandoned into zombie status remained at 3.8 percent in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the prior quarter.

Among the nation’s total stock of nearly 99 million residential properties, zombie properties continue to represent just a miniscule portion – only one of every 14,825 homes in the first quarter of 2021. That figure is down from one in 13,074 in the fourth quarter of 2020 and one in 11,405 in the first quarter of last year.

The first-quarter 2021 data show that empty homes at some point in the foreclosure process continue to disappear from most neighborhoods across the country as the housing market remains strong and the federal government keeps trying to shield homeowners from an economic slide stemming from the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

A moratorium against lenders foreclosing on government-backed mortgages has been in place since last March, affecting about 70 percent of home loans in the U.S. The temporary ban, recently extended to June 30, was enacted under the CARES Act passed by Congress last March to help borrowers who have lost jobs or other sources of income during the pandemic. Some private lenders also have voluntarily offered mortgage extensions.

“These days, you can walk through most neighborhoods in the United States and not spot a single zombie foreclosure. That continues a remarkable turnaround from the last recession when many communities were dotted by abandoned properties,” says Todd Teta, chief product officer with ATTOM Data Solutions. “The trend does remain on thin ice because foreclosures are temporarily on hold, and the market is still at risk of another wave of zombie properties when the moratorium is lifted, depending on the general state of the broader economy.

“For the moment, though, zombie properties remain pretty much a non-issue in the vast majority of the country.”

The number of zombie foreclosures dropped, quarter over quarter, in 35 states. Among states with at least 100 properties in pre-foreclosure in the first quarter of 2021, the biggest decreases from last quarter in zombie properties included Kentucky (down 52 percent), Mississippi (down 51 percent), Louisiana (down 48 percent), Connecticut (down 47 percent) and California (down 44 percent).

States with the biggest increases included Arkansas (up 63 percent), Texas (up 62 percent), Minnesota (up 32 percent), Massachusetts (up 24 percent) and Missouri (up 20 percent).

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