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So-called "zombie" foreclosure numbers continue to be mixed

We've seen these numbers before and can perhaps continue to draw the same conclusions regarding them.

To wit: Data relevant to housing markets in Florida and nationally can be construed as either positive or negative, respectively, depending on one's personal predilections in judging.

Consider, for example, that so-called "zombie foreclosures" (properties abandoned by owners and sitting vacant during the foreclosure process) are reportedly down by about 10 percent presently from the same time period last year.

That's obviously good news, right?

Notwithstanding the drop, though, such foreclosure are actually up in about half of all the metropolitan markets across the country that are analyzed by the real estate firm RealtyTrac. Tellingly, there has been a spike in owner-vacated foreclosures in recent months in some large urban areas that have previously held high foreclosure rates at bay.

That's bad news, right?

And what of Florida?

On the one hand, RealtyTrac reports that the Miami metro is looking pretty good right now when compared to one year ago, with zombie foreclosures having dropped by about 46 percent from that time.

On the other hand, though, Florida continues to be a relative outlier when it comes to foreclosures, with RealtyTrac citing it as second in the nation for its high foreclosure rate, trailing only New Jersey in that sullied category. Tampa and Ocala have been especially singled out for their exceedingly high owner-vacated foreclosure rates.

Things might indeed seem to be improving in the aggregate when looked at in a national-centric way, but regional dislocations -- even outright anomalies -- continue to exist.

And they point to this conclusion, which is backed by reams of empirical evidence: Improvements -- or lack thereof -- in the nation's housing market are clearly driven by local factors and are highly variable from one metropolitan area to the next.

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