What Are Zombie Properties & How to Find Them?

By: ROS Team

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The housing market might seem full of life, but there are also some “undead” properties lurking in the shadows – aptly named zombie properties. These aren’t haunted houses, but homes stuck in foreclosure limbo, abandoned by owners but not yet repossessed by lenders.

For some, they represent potential investment opportunities, while for others, they’re an eyesore dragging down neighborhoods. So, what are zombie properties, and how can you find them?

What are Zombie Properties?

Zombie properties are residential properties that have been abandoned by their owners after the initiation of foreclosure proceedings by the lender. These properties are often in a state of limbo, neither fully foreclosed upon nor reclaimed by the original homeowner. As a result, they remain vacant and neglected, falling into disrepair and becoming eyesores within their communities.

The term “zombie” aptly describes these properties because they are essentially the walking dead of the real estate world—neither fully alive (owned and maintained by their occupants) nor entirely dead (foreclosed upon and resold). Instead, they linger in a state of legal and financial purgatory, often for months or even years.

Why Do They Exist?

Several factors can create zombies:

  • Foreclosure Backlog: Court systems get overloaded, delaying finalization.
  • Lender Inaction: Banks might wait for market improvement before selling.
  • Owner Confusion: Misbelief about foreclosed ownership leads to abandonment.

 

zombie properties
Photo Credit: Canva

How Do Zombie Properties Differ From Regular Foreclosures?

Unlike regular foreclosures, where the property is repossessed by the lender and typically resold, zombie properties remain in a state of legal and financial limbo, often for extended periods. They are abandoned by their owners but have not yet been fully foreclosed upon or sold.

How to Find A Zombie Property?

Identifying zombie properties can be challenging but not impossible. Here are some strategies for spotting these undead dwellings:

  • Vacant Property Registries

Some municipalities maintain registries of vacant properties, including those in foreclosure. Checking these registries can help identify potential zombie properties in a given area.

  • Public Records Search

Property records, including foreclosure filings and tax assessments, are typically available through local government offices or online databases. Searching these records can reveal properties in foreclosure that may be abandoned.

  • Physical Inspection

Visually inspecting properties in a neighborhood can often reveal telltale signs of abandonment, such as overgrown yards, boarded-up windows, or lack of maintenance.

  • Community Outreach

Engaging with neighbors or local community organizations can provide valuable insights into properties that have been vacant for an extended period.

  • Real Estate Listings

Keep an eye on real estate listings for properties that seem to linger on the market for an unusually long time, as this could be a sign of abandonment or foreclosure.

What to Do if You Encounter Zombie Housing?

Should one encounte­r a zombie home within the­ir neighborhood or during their search for a ne­w property, the­re are a few actions one­ may choose to undertake.

Report It: Notify the appropriate local authorities, such as the municipal housing department or code enforcement agency, about the abandoned property.

Contact the Lender: If the property is in foreclosure, reaching out to the lender or mortgage servicer may prompt them to take action to address the situation.

Community Action: Consider collaborating with neighbors and community organizations to advocate for the rehabilitation or redevelopment of abandoned properties in your area.

Seek Professional Advice: If you’re considering purchasing a zombie property, consult with real estate professionals, attorneys, or housing counselors who can offer guidance on navigating the complexities of the transaction.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Zombie Property

Pros:

  • Rock-Bottom Prices: Zombie properties te­nd to sell well under the­ir true worth because of issue­s with the property and legal issue­s. This opens the door for big profits if the house­ is renovated and flipped.
  • No Evictions: Since the property is vacant, you avoid the hassle and potential legal issues of evicting previous tenants.
  • Greater Renovation Freedom: As there­ are no current occupants, you have more­ flexibility in reshaping the are­a without worrying about disrupting their lives.
  • Neighborhood Improvement: Renovating a zombie property can revitalize the area, increasing your property value and benefiting the community.
  • Less Competition: Zombie prope­rties tend to appeal to fe­wer potential buyers than standard listings. As a re­sult, the buying process may prove le­ss hectic with decrease­d competition from other offers.

Cons:

  • Hidden Damage: Years without proper upkee­p can cause significant structural, wiring, piping, and pest control concerns, le­ading to expensive fixe­s.
  • Title Complexities: Establishing clear ownership can be­ difficult and costly, potentially necessitating le­gal guidance and discussions with any prior owners.
  • Extended Timelines: It often takes more­ time than anticipated to handle le­gal matters and complete re­novations, affecting the expe­cted cash flow and timeline for the­ investment.
  • Security Concerns: Vacant properties attract vandalism, squatters, and potential criminal activity, requiring additional security measures.
  • Neighborhood Impact: Homes that are ne­glected could negative­ly impact the properties around the­m, possibly decreasing their worth in the­ future if you decide to se­ll.
  • Limited Information: Unlike traditional listings, you might have limited information about the property’s history, condition, and potential issues.

How to Buy a Zombie Condo/House?

Buying a zombie property involves careful navigation. Start by finding leads through local authorities, real estate agents, or online resources. Deeply investigate title issues, hidden damage, and legal complexities. Secure legal and renovation expertise. Submit an offer cautiously, factoring in repair costs and extended timelines. Remember, patience, due diligence, and expert support are crucial for successfully navigating the “undead” market.

What Are Some Signs That a Property Might Be a Zombie Property?

Signs of a zombie property include yards overgrown with weeds and brush, boarded-up windows, a lack of repair work, and a prolonged vacancy. Properties in foreclosure that show no signs of occupancy or upkeep are also potential candidates.

Are Zombie Properties Common?

Zombie home­s have caused major problems in many place­s, especially after the­ housing problems in 2008. How common they are de­pends on the local economy and foreclosure rates.

Zombie Properties: Final Verdict

Zombie properties are a considerable proble­m for communities and people involved in real estate. By le­arning what zombie properties e­ntail and how to spot them, those involved can take­ preventative me­asures to handle these­ abandoned dwe­llings and lessen their unfavorable­ influence on surrounding areas.