Abandoned homes account for 4.9% of all local foreclosed homes.

The zombies are still out there, but the plague has eased in the Southwest Florida housing market.

Zombie Foreclosures – Homes abandoned by their owners – accounted for 4.9% of all distressed properties in the Sarasota Manatee region, real estate researcher ATTOM Data Solutions reported last week.

The two-county area has 74 of the undead properties, three fewer than last year and down from 111 in 2016.

Many parts of the country have got rid of their haunted properties. Sarasota Manatee ranked 29th among the 158 major. Zero Forecast for Zombie Foreclosures, An Improvement from Last Year's 24th Place.

Sarasota manatee remains higher than the U.S. average of 3.2% of single-family homes and condos that were vacant and in the foreclosure process. The two counties reported a total of 1,518 residential properties in the foreclosure mill.

But while they are dying off, zombie foreclosures remain a blight in many neighborhoods, along with bank-owned homes that are vacant and not well maintained. Those homes are often the most derelict in neighborhoods.

"The blight of vacancy, decaying properties facing foreclosure has declined dramatically across the United States – another good news offshoot of the housing boom that's gone on for eight years," said Todd Teta, chief product officer with ATTOM. "A handful of areas still face problems with homes abandoned by owners after they get hit with foreclosure claims.

"But with the economy improving and the housing market still hot, an expanding number of neighborhoods across the country face little or no problem with these so-called zombie properties," he said.

In Charlotte County, 12 homes in Foreclosure, a 4.2% rate of all foreclosures. That was down from 16 homes, or 6.1%, over the year.

Florida ranked second in the nation with 1,634 zombie foreclosures, a 4.0% rate and 116 less than a year ago.

Nationwide, the 9,612 zombie foreclosure homes totaled 3.2% of all troubled properties.

Delinquency rates drop

Meanwhile, the share of local homeowners who are on their mortgage payments continues to shrink.

Mortgage delinquency rates spiked in the Sarasota Manatee region after Hurricane Irma struck in September 2017, but they have returned to normal levels, according to a CoreLogic database.

The share of local homeowners who are at least 30 days late on their mortgage payments dropped to 2.5% in May from 4.0% one year earlier, CoreLogic said.

Local mortgage delinquency rates started to rise in late 2017, due to strapped homeowners who were put off by Irma. But those rates have steadily declined in the past year.

Sarasota Manatee posted the 90th lowest rate for 30-day delinquency among the 381 U.S. metro areas analyzed in the latest report.

The early stage delinquency rate in Florida has dropped from 6.2% to 3.9% over the year. The U.S. rate fell from 4.2% to 3.6%.

"Last year's hurricanes and wildfires, and so on", said Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic These springs have been pushed higher and have accelerated delinquency rates higher in these impacted communities. "

The overall foreclosure rate in Sarasota Manatee is down to 0.5% of all mortgaged properties. That's lower than the Florida rate of 0.7% but just above the U.S. Rate of 0.4%, which is the lowest share of homes in the foreclosure process since at least January 1999.

John Hielscher writes about banking, real estate and other business news. He can be contacted at 361-4875, fax to 361-4880 or email john.hielscher@heraldtribune.com.