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Monday, Jan 30, 2023
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The Number

Some surprising news came out of Ventura County this spring. The number of “zombie foreclosures” there rose by 304 percent, from 27 during second quarter last year to 122 this year. Is it time to fear a zombie apocalypse – or do the numbers simply represent the last gasp of the housing crisis? First, a definition: So-called zombie foreclosures occur when a lender forecloses on a property that is already vacant. Often the former owner left once the foreclosure process started and the lender let it lapse. These properties languish in limbo until the lender completes the process, then they re-appear on the foreclosure statistics. Irvine real estate data firm RealtyTrac spotted the big increase in zombies by comparing foreclosure records with addresses flagged vacant by the U.S. Postal Service. But the increase in Ventura – and a smaller increase of 21 percent in Los Angeles County – caught them off-guard, said vice president Daren Blomquist. After all, the foreclosure rate has been falling dramatically in Ventura County. At the height of the housing crisis in 2009, there were 18,000 filings in the county. That figure was down to 3,100 last year. And it’s the same around the country. “The trend is down 10 percent nationwide from a year ago,” Blomquist said. So what accounts for the zombie uprising up north? His best guess: Banks that have cleared away the bulk of their bad loans are finally pursuing tougher foreclosures, including properties for which they didn’t have proper documentation. And homeowners who have stayed put for years are finally seeing the writing on the wall – and moving on. The glut in zombie foreclosures has a posiitive side. More properties for sale eases a tight housing market, especially for bargain-hunters looking for homes they can fix up, Blomquist said. – Karen E. Klein

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