Judy Rivard - Sawicki Real Estate


Photo by Daniel Tuttle on Unsplash

Buying a home, especially for the first time, might feel a little scary—notably if you've learned the home you’re considering for purchase is a zombie property. Even a pro at buying property may flinch when they initially hear this term.

No worries, a zombie property is not as frightening as it sounds. It’s a common term used in the housing industry, originating back to the 2007-08 housing crisis when tens of thousands of these homes were left behind because their owners couldn’t afford to make their mortgage payments.

What is a Zombie Property?

A zombie property creeps up when no one retains accountability for it. It usually occurs when homeowners leave their homes after receiving a foreclosure notice and incorrectly believe they must immediately vacate the property. They often don't realize there is an entire foreclosure process, one that doesn’t happen overnight. In most instances, they believe the lender that sent the notice will take over responsibility for the property, so they move out. In some cases, they do know they can stay but choose not to delay the inevitable and cut loose in search of greener pastures.

Meanwhile, the lender, for whatever reason, doesn’t complete the foreclosure process they initiated and the property stands abandoned. Since the homeowner has already walked away not realizing they still technically own the property, and the lender also doesn’t assume ownership, no one takes responsibility for the home. It essentially sits in a state of limbo—hence it being referred to as a “zombie.” Its ownership is not quite alive (abandoned), but not yet dead (foreclosed upon) either.

Pros of Purchasing a Zombie Property

The primary benefit of purchasing a zombie property is the price. Most of these properties are typically sold below market value, sometimes at rock bottom prices. Because some of them are eyesores, or have the potential to become attractive to squatters, municipalities and towns are eager to get these homes rehabbed and inhabited. This means buyers who are handy with repairs or who have the investment money available to fix up and flip the home for a profit can make out handsomely with this type of sale.

Cons of Purchasing a Zombie Property

While the financial benefits associated with zombie homes are lucrative, there are some potential pitfalls to be careful of when considering a purchase. In most instances, the original owner still retains the title to the home, so this legal detail will need to be addressed. Buyers also have to consider these homes may have deterioration, unsafe conditions or be unsanitary. This is especially a concern for properties that have been abandoned for a long period of time. Additionally, it takes more effort to navigate a zombie property purchase than a traditional foreclosure since no one is actively involved with the property.

Many potential buyers intentionally or inadvertently overlook zombie properties, but if you’re in the market, it’s not an option you should automatically discount. Don't let the zombie moniker fool you.  If you perform your due diligence and find ways to mitigate any drawbacks, you could potentially land yourself a great home, rental investment, or profitable house-flip.


If you’re a first-time buyer, odds are you’ve never seen or heard much about mortgage applications. However, for something as important as buying a home, it pays off to go into the process knowing what to expect.

Mortgage applications aren’t all that complicated in and of themselves. Most of the time, your chosen lender will walk you through the process and answer any questions that arise. However, complications do arise when it comes time to provide documentation on things like your income.

To make things easier for your first application, I’ve put together this list of frequently asked questions that first-time buyers often have about their mortgage application process.

Will applying for a mortgage hurt my credit score?

Mortgage lenders will run a credit inquiry to help determine your lending eligibility. There are two types of credit inquiries: hard and soft. A soft inquiry is a quick credit check that doesn’t affect your credit score. A hard inquiry, on the other hand, does. This means your score will be lowered slightly for a few months and then will bounce back.

Mortgage lenders run both types of inquiries. For quick, pre-qualifications, lenders typically run a soft inquiry. Then, as you progress through the approval process, they’re run a detailed credit report (hard inquiry).

What information should I have available?

Lenders will ask you for various documents. The most common things they will ask for include proof of income in the form of  W-2 forms from the previous year and your most recent pay stub. They will also require a record of your other debts, including student loans, auto loans, credit card debt, and any other outstanding debt that you owe. Finally, they will ask for an inventory of your assets. This could include investments, properties, auto titles, and more.

What if I don’t work a conventional job?

People who are self-employed or have unconventional income can still qualify for a loan and will still be required to show proof of income. Lenders may ask for Form 1099 records, tax returns, or any other record or proof of income you have available.

How long does it take to complete an application?

Mortgage applications can be completed as quickly as you gather the required documentation. However, there’s more to getting approved for a mortgage than filling out an application. There will be time needed to process the application, and underwrite your mortgage. This entire process typically takes between 30 and 45 days.

Is it safe to apply for a mortgage online?

Most lenders allow you to start the application process online and their online portals are typically secure. Make sure you check your browser window to ensure that the connection to the site is secured, and you should have nothing to worry about.

Keep in mind that most online applications are designed to get you  prequalified and on your way to getting a mortgage. So, if you want to avoid getting calls from the lender, you might not want to enter any data until you know you’re interested in borrowing at this time.



For those who want to acquire a stellar house at a budget-friendly price, it pays to work with a diligent real estate agent. In fact, some of the top reasons to hire a diligent real estate agent include:

1. A diligent real estate agent knows all about the housing market.

Are you still unsure about what differentiates a buyer's market from a seller's market? No worries, as a diligent real estate agent can teach you everything you need to know about the housing market.

A diligent real estate agent will dedicate the necessary time and resources to help you become an informed home shopper. That way, you can enter the real estate market with the support and insights that you need to succeed.

Also, a diligent real estate agent is ready to respond to any homebuying concerns and questions. This housing market professional can serve as an expert homebuying resource who can help you achieve the best possible results during the property buying journey.

2. A diligent real estate agent can help you establish realistic homebuying expectations.

Although it may seem simple to look at houses and find one that can serve you well for years to come, the property buying process may prove to be much more complex than you initially thought. However, a diligent real estate agent can help you map out your homebuying journey so you can avoid potential hurdles along the way.

For example, a diligent real estate agent may encourage you to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Because, with a mortgage in hand, you can begin your home search with a clear understanding of how much money you can spend on a house.

A diligent real estate agent may ask you to differentiate between "must-haves" and "wants" for your dream residence. And with a homebuying checklist in hand, you can narrow your home search and accelerate your quest for the perfect residence.

3. A diligent real estate agent can help you handle homebuying negotiations.

Let's face it – homebuying negotiations can be tricky, particularly if you're forced to work with a stubborn home seller. But with a diligent real estate agent at your side, you can get the assistance you need to purchase your dream house at your ideal price.

A diligent real estate agent can negotiate with a home seller on your behalf and keep you up to date at each stage of a negotiation. Then, as homebuying negotiations progress, a diligent real estate agent will be able to offer tips and guidance to help you make informed decisions.

In addition, a diligent real estate agent can help you minimize stress throughout homebuying negotiations. If these negotiations become too stressful, a diligent real estate agent will do everything possible to help you stay calm, cool and collected as well.

If you're planning to buy a home in the near future, hiring a diligent real estate agent is a must. This housing market professional will do what it takes to ensure you can purchase a wonderful residence that matches or exceeds your expectations.


If you want to enjoy a seamless homebuying experience, it generally is a good idea to establish a property buying plan. That way, you can take a step-by-step approach to make your homeownership dream come true.

As you prepare a homebuying strategy, there are several factors to consider. These factors include:

1. Your Dream Home Definition

There is no one-size-fits-all definition of a dream home. Instead, this definition varies from buyer to buyer. But if you define your ideal residence, you can narrow your house search accordingly.

Think about the features you require from a home. For instance, if you want a house that offers multiple bedrooms, you can search for residences that provide you with the space you need. On the other hand, if you want a home that boasts a deluxe swimming pool, you can search for a residence that offers this feature.

Consider where you want to reside, too. By doing so, you can search for homes in a select group of cities and towns.

2. Your Homebuying Budget

You likely have only a finite amount of money that you can spend on a residence. Thankfully, if you establish a homebuying budget, you can search for houses that fall within your price range.

Oftentimes, it helps to meet with banks and credit unions before you start a house search. These financial institutions can teach you about a broad array of home financing options.

Don't hesitate to discuss your home financing options with a variety of banks and credit unions, either. If you check out myriad home financing options, you can select a mortgage that complements your finances perfectly.

3. Your Homebuying Timeline

You may want to create a timeline for buying a house. With this timeline in place, you will know precisely how many days, weeks or months you have to find and acquire your dream residence.

If possible, you should maintain a flexible homebuying timeline. There is no telling when problems may arise as you search for your dream house. And if your homebuying timeline is flexible, you can adjust it at any time.

For those who want to streamline the homebuying journey, you may want to employ a real estate agent as well. This housing market professional will go above and beyond the call of duty to help you find a great home at a budget-friendly price. Plus, he or she can offer expert guidance as you craft a property buying strategy.

Also, as you navigate the homebuying journey, a real estate agent will respond to any concerns or questions. Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent is happy to provide homebuying tips and recommendations that you may struggle to receive elsewhere.

Ready to transform your homebuying vision into a reality? Craft a homebuying strategy today – you will be glad you did. Once you have a homebuying plan at your disposal, you can navigate the property buying journey with poise and confidence.


Buying a vacation home may prove to be a great investment. It enables you to spend time at a terrific location at your convenience – all without having to worry about hotel or motel costs. Plus, a vacation home can be tailored to your individual needs. You can decorate your vacation house however you would like, and ultimately, find ways to make this residence a fun spot to visit any time you choose.

If you decide to search for a vacation home, it helps to prepare for the house buying process accordingly. Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you launch a successful search for a vacation residence.

1. Know Where You Want to Go

Consider where you want to purchase a vacation house, as well as how far away you want this residence to be from your primary home. Then, you can narrow your vacation house search to residences in a select group of cities and towns.

Think about your vacation home must-haves, too. Oftentimes, it helps to make a list of vacation home must-haves that you can use to guide your house search. Once you have this list at your disposal, you can use it to accelerate your quest to find a vacation home that suits you perfectly.

2. Establish a Homebuying Budget

Find out how much you can afford to pay for a vacation residence. Because if you conduct a vacation home search with a budget in hand, you could find a superb house that offers the ideal blend of affordability and quality.

Generally, it helps to meet with banks and credit unions before you launch a vacation home search. These financial institutions employ home financing specialists who can teach you about various mortgage options. Also, you can work with a home financing specialist to establish a house buying budget that ensures you won't have to spend beyond your means to acquire a first-rate vacation residence.

3. Consult with a Real Estate Agent

When it comes to searching for a vacation home, there is no need to work alone. If you employ a real estate agent, you can receive expert assistance as you navigate the homebuying journey.

A real estate agent understands what it takes to purchase a vacation home in any city or town, at any time. First, he or she will meet with you and learn about your vacation homebuying goals. A real estate agent next will help you hone your vacation home search and set up property showings. Finally, if you find a vacation home you want to acquire, a real estate agent will help you submit a competitive offer to buy this residence.

Ready to purchase a vacation home? Take advantage of the aforementioned tips – you will be happy you did. By using these tips, you can quickly and effortlessly perform a comprehensive vacation home search. Perhaps best of all, you can speed up the process of finding a top-notch vacation residence that matches your expectations.




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