MIAMI — Officially, there are 3.5 million homes for sale nationwide. But there are millions more lurking in the shadows — hidden neatly away on banks’ balance sheets, stalled in foreclosure court proceedings or simply occupied by nonpaying owners as lenders wait months or years before taking action.
The housing market’s ballooning shadow inventory — buoyed by a yearlong foreclosure slowdown — stands as the most menacing obstacle to the recovery of the residential real estate market.
Clustered mostly in hard-hit cities and states, there are more than 4.5 million homes either owned by lenders or headed for foreclosure. In Miami, for example, there are about 200,000 shadow homes, dwarfing the 30,000 properties that are listed on the active market. Even as prices in Miami have shown signs of stability this year, an impending wave of foreclosures threatens to keep real estate values deflated.
“A lot of people don’t understand how much inventory is set to come on line in the next 18 to 24 months,” said Jack McCabe, the CEO of McCabe Research & Consulting in Deerfield Beach, Fla. “When you compare what the Realtors show as inventory to what’s out there, you realize we have a long way to go.”