Quarterly reports from RealtyTrac indicate that the number of homes in the US left vacant due to foreclosure is dropping. However, New Jersey is still home to the largest percentage of “zombie” homes in the country.
Zombie homes—properties where owners vacated yet foreclosure never finished—make up 4.7 percent of all foreclosures in the US. Of the more than 19,000 zombie homes now in the expropriation process, 4,000 of them reside in New Jersey. More than one quarter of these zombie homes are in South Jersey, with substantial portions in Burlington, Gloucester and Camden Counties.
The foreclosure process in New Jersey might take up to three years — with the average process completing in 1,103 days. Combine this with the large volume of expropriations in the state and experts agree that the situation remains hard to resolve.
Across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, the numbers are drastically different. According to RealtyTrac, only 280 homes qualified as zombies in the combined Buck, Philadelphia, Chester, Montgomery and Delaware Counties. Philadelphia tops the list with 131 zombies while Montgomery ranks lowest with only 42.
Sales of distressed properties are on the rise in Philadelphia region according to Bob Acuff of Re/Max Services in Blue Bell. As a board member of Trend Multiple Listing Services, he notes, “We are surmising as the market has gotten stronger, the banks are releasing properties back into the market.”
Foreclosures also appear to be trending downward as noted by Chris Somers of Northern Liberties’ Re/Max Access. He notes that while investors are contacting owners to encourage selling, foreclosures and short sales are “becoming more rare.” Senior Vice President of RealtyTrac, Daren Blomquist, notes, “Lenders have been taking advantage of the strong seller’s market to dispose of lingering foreclosure inventory over the past year.”
As the economy continues to improve, this could eventually lead to a shortage in housing supply and rising real estate demands. This is clear in the vacancy data for Philadelphia and the surrounding region. In Lancaster County, vacancies make up a scant 0.3 percent of total housing inventory.
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