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'Zombie' properties continue to haunt Southern Florida

For many people, the term "zombie home" might conjure up images of a comic book or low-budget horror film. However, the term is actually used to reference those properties left vacant during the foreclosure process and which exploded in number during the recent recession.

What makes zombie homes such a problem is that they are not yet bank-owned, meaning they can rapidly become dilapidated and bring down the value of the surrounding homes, which may otherwise be in good shape.

Interestingly, the real estate listing firm RealtyTrac recently released figures outlining the number of zombie homes here in South Florida at the end of January, and they reveal a rather steady decline:

  • The South Florida metro area (Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties) had 9,580 zombie properties at the end of January 2015, a 34 percent drop from the same time last year, yet still the second-highest regional total in the U.S.
  • Palm Beach County had 2,572 zombie properties at the end of January 2015, as compared with 4,301 zombie properties at the end of January 2014; However, zombie properties still represented 25 percent of all properties in foreclosure, a two percent increase from last year.
  • Broward County had 3,267 zombie properties at the end of January 2015, as compared with 4,577 zombie properties at the end of January 2014; However, zombie properties represented 20 percent of all properties in foreclosure, a two percent increase from last year.

Why is it that zombie properties remain such a large percentage of the total properties in foreclosure despite seeing such sizeable drops?

According to experts, much of it can be traced to the problematic nature of these cases coupled with Florida's already lengthy foreclosure process, which takes an average of 946 days to complete. Indeed, the Sunshine State is third in the nation in the nation in this category, trailing only New Jersey (1,057) and Hawaii (1,067 days).

The good news to all this is that the demand for homes is still high, such that the number of zombie properties will eventually even out.

Remember to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you are facing foreclosure and would like to learn more about your options for keeping your home.

Source: The Sun Sentinel, "'Zombie' foreclosures on the decline across South Florida," Paul Owers, Feb. 6, 2014 

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