The Foreclosure Crisis and Community Development: Exploring REO Dynamics in Hard-Hit Neighborhoods

As the foreclosure crisis continues, many communities are faced with a glut of properties that have completed the foreclosure process and are now owned by banks or other mortgage lenders. These properties, referred to as “real estate owned (REO),” often sit vacant for extended periods and, recent studies suggest, depress neighboring property values. In this article we shed new light on the “REO problem” by studying the stock of REO properties at the neighborhood level in three urban areas: New York City, Miami-Dade County, Florida, and Fulton County, Georgia. We find that in each area, the number of REO properties was declining as of the end of 2011, and even in the hardest hit neighborhoods, only a small share of REO properties were purchased and “flipped” by investors.  However, in Miami-Dade and Fulton Counties, a small number of neighborhoods continued to have very high concentrations of REO properties, and the REO stock in all three areas was increasingly made up of properties that had been in REO for more than three years.