‘Zombie homes’ infesting New Jersey

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New Jersey has the most “zombie homes” in the nation.

Nearly 4,000 homes stand vacant in New Jersey after they were abandoned by owners facing foreclosure, according to real estate information company RealtyTrac.

New Jersey has so many of the empty houses because it takes three years to complete the foreclosure process in the state, said Ginny Walker, RealtyTrac spokeswoman.

“The homeowner is still on the hook for the upkeep of the property and for the taxes,” Walker said. “They don’t realize it, so they don’t end up paying it, which affects the amount of income coming into New Jersey.”

And those zombie homes also make it difficult for people who live nearby the rundown properties to sell their house, said Rutgers University economist James Hughes.

“Those properties in urban areas, in many cases, become potentially crime stimulants,” he said. “If they’re not fully secured, the criminal element may move in — drug elements and the like — and that can spread throughout a neighborhood.”

Speeding up foreclosure proceedings could help get more homes back on the market, Walker said.

“By the time the property gets to the actual bank repossession stage, it might not even make sense for the lender to take the time to repossess that property and actually try to resell it and recoup their losses at that point,” she said. “Some of them have just given up.”

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