Vacant Properties in Foreclosure Down Nationwide as Housing Market Prepares for End of Moratorium

  • Abandoned residential properties in foreclosure, or Zombie Foreclosures, represent one of every 13,100 homes in the fourth quarter of 2020.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Abandoned residential properties in foreclosure, or Zombie Foreclosures, represent one of every 13,100 homes in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to the 2020 Vacant Property and Zombie Foreclosure Report from ATTOM Data Solutions, a data-as-a-service provider for property data. At least 1.6 million residential properties are currently vacant nationwide.

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

Most properties are not abandoned during the foreclosure process, with just 3.8% of all pre-foreclosure properties vacant in the fourth quarter of 2020, up from 3.7% in the third quarter. The number of properties in foreclosure nationally fell to 200,065 in the fourth quarter, down 7.3% from the third quarter.

Foreclosures have remained stymied this year as the federal government continues to try to shield the housing market during the coronavirus pandemic. A temporary ban, which ends on December 31, prohibits lenders from foreclosing on government-backed mortgages, which represent 70% of all home loans in the United States. Mortgage extensions and payment forbearance have also been offered by many private lenders in the face of the pandemic.

“Zombie foreclosures have been barely an issue around most of the country for over a year, and they’re even less of one now. A surprisingly strong housing market and a temporary ban on foreclosures continues to leave most neighborhoods without a single such property,” said Todd Teta, chief product officer with ATTOM Data Solutions. “All that could change in a flash when foreclosures are allowed to resume or if the coronavirus takes a toll on the market. But for now, things are steady as they go, with the overall numbers down and the rates of zombie properties pretty much unchanged.”

Properties under foreclosure that have been zombified represented just one in 34 in pre-foreclosure in the fourth quarter of 2019, but have risen to one in 26 as of the fourth quarter of 2020. The Midwest and South have the highest rates, with states in the Northeast and West having lower rates.

“It’s worth noting that while foreclosure moratoria have caused the number of zombie properties to drop slightly, the percentage of foreclosure properties in zombie status has increased,” said Rick Sharga, executive vice president for RealtyTrac, an ATTOM Data Solutions company. “It’s likely that as the length of time it takes to execute a foreclosure continues to increase, we’ll also continue to see the percentage of vacant and abandoned foreclosure homes increase.”

Among states with the highest overall vacancy rates for all residential properties, Oklahoma ranks third with 2.6%, behind Kansas and Mississippi, both at 2.7%, respectively.