Zombie Foreclosures: Ugly, Abandoned, and Eating Away Your Property’s Resale Value
Fear and miscommunication between indebted homeowners and their mortgage lenders have forced thousands of paranoid families to intentionally abandon their homes well before the bank can legally to repossess.
The result is a zombie foreclosure: an abandoned home that can sit for years, eventually eating away the resale value of surrounding homes.
3 Steps to Find Out if a Property is a Zombie Foreclosure
Step #1: The Visual Inspection:
Walk or drive by the home foreclosure. Look for signs that the home has been abandoned. It is not recommend to walk on the property because it is considered trespassing.
Are any lights on in the home?
Are there any cars in the driveway?
Is the grass and trees overgrown?
Are there padlocks on the doors and boarded windows?
If weeks pass and you never see anyone at the property you may be dealing with an abandon home. Proceed to step 2 to gather more evidence.
Step #2: Contact the Electric Company:
Find out who the utility company is by using the search string “city” or “county” name + “electric company”. So in our example we search “Orlando electric company” and found Orlando Utility Company would most likely be the provider. If the home is in your neighborhood, it probably has the same utility company as your home.
Call the electric company and explain you are a prospective renter for the home and would like to know if the electricity is on or not. This information should be free and most customer service providers are usually more than happy to help. If they confirm that the electricity has been turned off it is likely that nobody is living there. Continue to step 3 to verify if the property is in foreclosure.
Do you suspect a zombie foreclosure is residing in your neighborhood? There are 3 steps to help you determine this.
Step 1. Perform a visual inspection
Step 2. Contact the utility company
Step 3. Search local court records for info on the foreclosure
Step #3: Search Local Court Records to See if the Home is in Foreclosure
It’s time to do some serious detective work. Information about home foreclosures is free to everyone but can be confusing. Here is exactly how to find out if a neighborhood home is in foreclosure.
To do this you need:
The property address
The name of the person who is on the mortgage.
You can do a drive by to find the home address or use Google maps locate it. Next we need to find who is on the mortgage.
Next enter the address of the suspected zombie foreclosure into zillow’s search function. For example purposes, we will use a home that has been in pre-foreclosure for over 344 days according to Zillow.
Scroll down and click “See data sources.” A screen should pop up.
At the top right corner click “visit county website.” A new tab should then open to the county’s website.
You should be able to see the name of the person listed on the mortgage in the top left hand corner. Take note of the county the property is located in.
Now that you have the mortgage holder’s name, open a new tab in Google and search for the county clerk of court.
Use the search string: “county” + clerk of court
In our case we saw the home was in Orange county so we searched
“Orange County Clerk of Court”
This pulls up what you see below.
Click orange country clerk of court.
Click Civil case records
Fill out the name of the person on the mortgage and hit search
Locate the newest foreclosure case associated with the name you provided. You can determine the year the case was filed by the first 4 numbers. If the first numbers are 2013-CA then the foreclosure was filed in 2013. If they are 2008-CA it was filed in 2008. Here we found the foreclosure case we were looking for was filed in 2014.
If nothing is found, make sure you entered the name correctly. If you still find nothing regarding a foreclosure, that person may not be listed on the mortgage and you will need to keep searching for the home owner - OR - the home is simply not in foreclosure.
Under the “OTHER EVENTS AND HEARINGS” you can see when the foreclosure complaint was filed and how it was responded to. In the case above, the foreclosure complaint was filed 5/30/2014. Then on 7/11/2014 the owner filed a petition for bankruptcy which temporarily stopped the foreclosure from proceeding. Petitioning for bankruptcy will normally buy the homeowner an extra 2- 3 months time in the home. With our example, it appears the lender did not follow through with the foreclosure because 7 months later the case was place on “inactive” status. It is now nearing June of 2015 and nothing else appears to have been done.
Start by going to zillow.com
This is the information that Zillow pulled on the property. Make sure it is the same address you have been looking for.
NOTE: Each county website is different so you may need to do some further digging to find the owner. Lucky for us Orange County’s website gives us exactly what we need.
You did a visual inspection and determined the home did not appear to be occupied. You called the electric company and found out the power has been turned off for a while. You then searched public records and found out the home has been in foreclosure but the lender has done nothing for 6 months or more.
If the house has passed all 3 tests, you probably have a zombie foreclosure in your neighborhood and it is eating your home resale value. It would benefit you and your neighborhood to implement some of the defense strategies mentioned in the zombie foreclosure infographic above.
Embed this zombie foreclosure infographic on your site