What are zombie titles?

You have likely seen rundown houses in Tennessee that look like nobody has lived there for years. They may attract animals or criminal activity. You may wonder who owns these homes and why they are not taking care of the property. What you see is something SmartAsset calls a zombie title.

This is a property wherein the bank began foreclosure, the resident left the home and the bank never finished the foreclosure. The title remains in the name of the resident who was trying to buy the house, but he or she already walked away.


The legal responsibility for a zombie title remains with the original buyer. This person still owes all the back taxes and any other associated costs. Sometimes, cities will spend money to fix up these properties to make them look more appealing. They then charge those fees to the titleholder.

Typically, the titleholder abandoned the property, doing nothing to keep it in good condition. It may become host to vandals who further damage the inside of the home. In general, zombie title properties are not in good condition.

The lender

You may wonder why the lender would walk away from a property. The reason is usually that it feels that taking the time and money to go through with the foreclosure is not worth it. This could be because the home’s value is not high or because the lender already has too many properties in foreclosure. Either way, the lender walks away. It has no legal responsibility for the property at this point.

If you want to buy a zombie property, it is not easy. You must track down the owner, which is often challenging. You will also need to clear up the back taxes and any other liens that exist on the property. Even if you do secure it, fixing it up is a costly endeavor.

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