Baltimore plagued by zombie foreclosures

WASHINGTON — The only thing worse than a home in foreclosure is a home in foreclosure with nobody living in it, and Baltimore has one of the highest foreclosure vacancy rates in the nation.

They are called zombie foreclosures, and RealtyTrac says 9.7 percent of houses and condos in foreclosure in Baltimore are vacant, a Zombie foreclosure rate topped only by St. Louis, Indianapolis and Albany, New York.

Vacant foreclosure properties can drag down property values around them, and the longer they sit vacant, the more they can deteriorate, making it more difficult for banks to sell them at a fair market price.

Often, the lender’s hands are tied, because  these vacant properties are still in the foreclosure process, meaning owners have abandoned them before they have to. Sometimes long before they have to. Legally, a bank taking initiative to change the locks, have the lawn mowed or the property otherwise maintained before the foreclosure process is complete would be considered trespassing.

Nationwide, RealtyTrac says the number of residential properties in foreclosure sitting vacant totals 19,187 as of May. That number is 4.7 percent of all properties in foreclosure.

The good news is that is down 3.1 percent from April and down more than 30 percent from a year ago.

“Lenders have been taking advantage of the strong seller’s market to dispose of lingering foreclosure inventory over the past year, said RealtyTrac Senior Vice President Daren Blomquist.

“As these zombie foreclosures hit the market for sale, they are providing a modicum of relief for the pressure cooker of escalating prices and deteriorating affordability that have defined the U.S. housing market in recent years.”

Maryland also ranks among states with the highest zombie foreclosure rate, at 7.2 percent.

Oregon tops the list, with 11.8 percent of residential properties in foreclosure sitting vacant.

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