Zombie Foreclosure–What is it?

Zombie foreclosures happen when the homeowner assumes they have lost their home and moves when the bank begins foreclosure, but the foreclosure process is never completed. So both the homeowner and their title are caught in between this world and the next, like a zombie.

The problem is that once the homeowner leaves, there’s an opportunity for real estate taxes to go unpaid and the property to go unmaintained, which often leads to code enforcement violations, vandals, and even squatters. You wind up with a whole slew of new problems—which the homeowner, not the bank, can still be liable for without even knowing it

Your first step when fighting back against a zombie foreclosure is to check the county or tax records. These are online in most areas now and will show you if you’re still on the title.

Anyone who has been foreclosed on might want to do this, if only to be sure. If you see that the bank has started but not finished a foreclosure, contact the bank and try to find out what their plans are.

The good news is that most banks are far more open nowadays to negotiate a short sale, deed in lieu of foreclosure, or agree to a loan modification than they were when most of these foreclosure cases were started.

The next step is to review current records for past due taxes, code violations, or other liens, and check out the property condition. You want to make sure you do what you can to avoid any more damage than what has already occurred and to also secure the home.

Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to rent the home or move back into it—a happier ending than most zombie movies get to see.

 

Trulia: Owning Costs 44% Less than Renting

Home price gains may be outpacing increases in rent, but the cost of being a homeowner is still much less than that of a renter, according to Trulia’s Winter 2013 Rent vs. Buy report.

After factoring all cost components including transaction costs, taxes, and opportunity costs, Trulia found buying a home is 44 percent cheaper than renting, down slightly from 46 percent a year ago.

“Although buying a home is still cheaper than renting, the gap is closing,” said Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist. “In 2013, home prices should rise faster than rents, and mortgage rates are likely to rise in the next year as the economy improves. By next year, buying could be more expensive than renting in some housing markets, even for people with the best credit.”

In the last year, asking home prices showed a 7 percent gain compared to a 3.2 percent increase in rents during the same time period, according to data from the real estate site.

Trulia explained low mortgage rates have kept the cost of owning down; for the analysis, a 3.5 percent mortgage rate was assumed.

The San Francisco-based company also revealed that out of the 100 largest metros analyzed, buying was more affordable than renting in all metros.

In some metros, the cost of buying was much less than the national average. The buy-rent gap was the largest in Detroit, where buying costs 70 percent less than renting. For the next four metros in top five, the cost of owning was 63 percent less than renting; the four metros were Dayton and Cleveland in Ohio; Warren, Michigan; and Gary, Indiana.

Although owning was found to be less expensive in all metros, owners in San Francisco averaged the smallest savings at 19 percent, a steep decrease from the 35 percent savings seen in 2012.

If one were to receive a mortgage rate of 4.5 percent, Trulia noted the cost of buying would be just 9 percent cheaper in San Francisco. However, a rate of 4.5 percent would still make buying more affordable than renting in all metros analyzed.

“People who didn’t buy a home last year may have missed the bottom of the market, but they haven’t completely missed the boat,” Kolko added. “Even buyers who can’t get today’s lowest mortgage rates will still find that buying makes more financial sense than renting in nearly all local markets – so long as they can get a mortgage in the first place.”

Other metros where owning may not be as enticing to borrowers based on savings were Honolulu, where the cost of owning is 23 percent cheaper, followed by San Jose (-24 percent), New York (-26 percent) and Albany (-30 percent).