A new real estate survey by Realty Trac says at least 301,874 “zombie” homes have been abandoned after their owners fell into foreclosure.
With 90,556 empty homes in foreclosure, Florida ranked number one in zombie homes. Illinois’s 31,668 and California’s 28,821 vacant properties ranked second and third respectively.
Experts say zombie homes invite vandalism and criminality while causing costly headaches for the cities forced to untangle them.
A Reuters report found that some owners remain unaware that their names stay on the deed and that they are liable for taxes and other costs associated with the empty homes, such as graffiti-scrubbing services, trash removal, gutter repair, and exterior cleaning. Some cities even threaten jail time for noncompliant zombie property titles.
While the number of homeowners who owe more on their homes than it is worth (“underwater”) declined 1.7 million over the last year, 1.5 million properties in America are now in foreclosure or bank-owned, a first quarter increase of 9% over last year.
Today, one in five American home mortgages are underwater.