About 4.2% of foreclosure filings in the Winston-Salem metropolitan statistical area over the past 12 months were for homes considered as “zombies,” or vacant because the owners have left, according to an Attom Data Solutions report timed for release today.

The rate is up from 3.8% in the third quarter of 2018 and from 10.8% in the third quarter of 2016.

Attom defines a zombie house as one in which a property owner either has moved or vacated the property, and the U.S. Postal Service is no longer delivering mail there. The home is not necessarily in foreclosure.

The analysis used Attom’s publicly recorded real-estate data — including foreclosure status and owner-occupancy status — matched against monthly vacancy data from the Postal Service.

There are 19 vacated homes among the 448 residences in foreclosure in Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Stokes and Yadkin counties.

Attom also measured the number of vacant homes owned by real-estate investors for the Winston-Salem MSA. That total was 3,254 out of 77,044 homes, or also 4.2% — essentially unchanged from a year ago.

The Winston-Salem Regional Association of Realtors has said the only information it has on zombie foreclosures “is what is logged in the Multiple Listing Service by listing agents, or anecdotal from members showing property.”

“The blight of vacant, 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 notable 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,” Teta said.

The Winston-Salem MSA had the highest vacated percentage rate of the state’s five urban regions.

The Greensboro-High Point MSA of Guilford, Randolph and Rockingham counties has 32 vacated homes out of 592 in foreclosure, or 3.2%. That’s up from 4.2% a year ago.

For the Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord MSA, there were 21 vacated homes out of 1,950 in foreclosure proceedings, or 1.1%. That’s up from 0.8% a year ago.

For the Raleigh-Cary MSA, there were four vacated homes out of 699 in foreclosure proceedings, or 0.6%. That’s down from 1.1% a year ago

For the Durham-Chapel Hill MSA, there were three vacated homes out of 210 in foreclosure proceedings, or 1.4 percent. That’s unchanged from a year ago.

In North Carolina, there were 136 vacated homes out of 5,827 foreclosure proceedings, or 2.3%. That’s down from 2.4% a year ago.

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rcraver@wsjournal.com 336-727-7376 @rcraverWSJ

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