RealtyTrac's Q1 2015 Zombie Foreclosure Report, found that as of the end of January 2015, 142,462 homes actively in the foreclosure process had been vacated by the homeowners prior to the bank repossessing the property, representing 25 percent of all active foreclosures.
The total number of zombie foreclosures was down 6 percent from a year ago, but the 25 percent share of total foreclosures represented by zombies was up from 21 percent a year ago.
"While the number of vacated zombie foreclosures is down from a year ago, they represent an increasing share of all foreclosures because they tend to be the problem cases still stuck in the pipeline," said Daren Blomquist vice president at RealtyTrac. "Additionally, the states where overall foreclosure activity has been increasing over the past year -- counter to the national trend -- tend to be states with a longer foreclosure process more susceptible to the zombie problem."
"In states with a bloated foreclosure process, the increase in zombie foreclosures is actually a good sign that banks and courts are finally moving forward with a resolution on these properties that may have been sitting in foreclosure limbo for years," Blomquist continued. "In many markets there is plenty of demand from buyers and investors to snatch up these distressed properties as soon as they become available to purchase."
Florida, New Jersey, New York have most zombie foreclosures
Despite a 35 percent decrease in zombie foreclosures compared to a year ago, Florida had the highest number of any state with 35,903 -- down from 54,908 in the first quarter of 2014. Zombie foreclosures accounted for 26 percent of all foreclosures in Florida.
Zombie foreclosures increased 109 percent from a year ago in New Jersey, and the state posted the second highest total of any state with 17,983 -- 23 percent of all properties in foreclosure.
New York zombie foreclosures increased 54 percent from a year ago to 16,777, the third highest state total and representing 19 percent of all residential properties in foreclosure.
Illinois had 9,358 zombie foreclosures at the end of January, down 40 percent from a year ago but still the fourth highest state total, while California had 7,370 zombie foreclosures at the end of January, up 24 percent from a year ago and the fifth highest state total.
"We are now in the final cycle of the foreclosure crisis cleanup, in which we are witnessing a large final wave of walkaways," said Mark Hughes, Chief Operating Officer at First Team Real Estate, covering the Southern California market. "This has created an uptick in vacated or 'zombie' foreclosures and the intrinsic neighborhood issues most of them create.
"A much longer recovery, a largely veiled underemployment issue, and growing examples of faster bad debt forgiveness have most likely fueled this last wave of owners who have finally just walked away from their American dream," Hughes added.
Other states among the top 10 for most zombie foreclosures were Ohio (7,360), Indiana (5,217), Pennsylvania (4,937), Maryland (3,363) and North Carolina (3,177).
"Rising home prices in Ohio are motivating lending servicers to commence foreclosure actions more quickly and with fewer workout options offered to delinquent homeowners, creating immediate vacancies earlier in the foreclosure process," said Michael Mahon, executive vice president at HER Realtors, covering the Ohio housing markets of Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus. "Delinquent homeowners need to understand how prices have increased in recent months, and how this increase in equity may provide positive options for them to avoid foreclosure."
Metros with most zombie foreclosures: New York, Miami, Chicago, Tampa and Philadelphia
The greater New York metro area had by far the highest number of zombie foreclosures of any metropolitan statistical area nationwide, with 19,177 -- 17 percent of all properties in foreclosure and up 73 percent from a year ago.
Zombie foreclosures decreased from a year ago in Miami, Chicago and Tampa, but the three metros still posted the second, third and fourth highest number of zombie foreclosures among metro areas nationwide: Miami had 9,580 zombie foreclosures,19 percent of all foreclosures but down 34 percent from a year ago; Chicago had 8,384 zombie foreclosures, 21 percent of all foreclosures but down 35 percent from a year ago; and Tampa had 7,838 zombie foreclosures, 34 percent of all foreclosures but down 25 percent from a year ago.
Zombie foreclosures increased 53 percent from a year ago in the Philadelphia metro area, giving it the fifth highest number of any metro nationwide in the first quarter of 2015. There were 7,554 zombie foreclosures in the Philadelphia metro area as of the end of January, 27 percent of all foreclosures.
Other metro areas among the top 10 for most zombie foreclosures were Orlando (3,718), Jacksonville, Florida (2,368), Los Angeles (2,074), Las Vegas (1,832), and Baltimore, Maryland (1,722).
Metros with highest share of zombie foreclosures: St. Louis, Portland, Las Vegas
Among metro areas with a population of 200,000 or more and at least 500 zombie foreclosures as of the end of January, those with the highest share of zombie foreclosures as a percentage of all foreclosures were St. Louis (51 percent), Portland (40 percent) and Las Vegas (36 percent).
Metros with biggest increase in zombie foreclosures: Atlantic City, Trenton, New York
Among metro areas with a population of 200,000 or more and at least 500 zombie foreclosures as of the end of January, those with the biggest year-over-year increase in zombie foreclosures were Atlantic City, New Jersey (up 133 percent), Trenton-Ewing, New Jersey (up 110 percent), and New York (up 73 percent).