Florida leads nation in "zombie" foreclosures, even as numbers decline

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ORLANDO, Florida — Florida has more "zombie" foreclosures — or foreclosures where the house has been abandoned — than any other state, although the numbers have declined substantially over the past year, according to a new report released Friday.

Florida had almost 36,000 pending "zombie" foreclosures at the end of last month, about a 35 percent decrease from a year ago, according to the report from the research firm, RealtyTrac. Other states with high "zombie" foreclosures were New Jersey, New York, Illinois, California, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Carolina.

"Zombie" foreclosures accounted for about a quarter of all foreclosures in Florida. Often times, "zombie" foreclosures create problems for the banks that are in possession of the properties and are trying to sell them. Homes are sometimes damaged, lawn is overgrown and utilities may have been turned off for months, if not years.

Nationwide, "zombie" foreclosures are down from a year ago, but they also represent a larger share of foreclosures. RealtyTrac reported more than 142,000 foreclosed homes that have been vacated nationwide, or about a quarter of all foreclosure activity.

RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist said that's because "zombie" foreclosures tend to be the problem cases still "stuck in the pipeline," and they're most common in states with a longer 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 said.

At the metropolitan level, New York had the most "zombie" foreclosures at the end of last month, with more than 19,000. Other metro areas at the top of the list were South Florida, Chicago, Tampa, Philadelphia, Orlando, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Baltimore.

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