By Lynne Stiefel

October 26, 2010


Even though foreclosure activity looks to be slowing in a few suburbs, rates are increasing in most others, leading the Woodstock Institute to conclude that the crisis hasn’t yet bottomed out in the six-county Chicago region.

“Concerns about underwater homeowners aren’t likely going to go away,” Woodstock Senior Vice President Geoff Smith said Tuesday. “Our expectations would be that the underlying conditions of economic distress haven’t changed and will remain high in the fourth quarter.”

The institute’s report on foreclosure filings from July through September indicated the rate increased from the same period last year in nearly all suburbs, collar counties and Chicago neighborhoods it tracks.

Increases were highest in northwest Cook County, at nearly 50 percent, and southwest Cook County. Northern Cook County saw gains of almost 24 percent, and west Cook County, almost 29 percent.

There were bright spots. The number of foreclosure filings actually decreased by nearly 18 percent in Hinsdale in the third quarter of 2010 compared to a year earlier, by 6.5 percent in Wilmette and by 3 percent in Highland Park.

And increases were in single digits for Lake Zurich, Libertyville, Niles and Maywood.

That would seem to indicate stabilization in a few communities, Smith said, but not an overall trend.

“Some (suburbs and Chicago neighborhoods with stable real estate markets) are fairly well positioned to recover,” he said. But “We haven’t hit bottom yet. We have a little time to go before we do that.”

Suburbs notably seeing increased foreclosure filings include Oak Park, which experienced a 62 percent increase in the third quarter of 2010 from a year earlier; Grayslake, with a 62 percent increase; and Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village and Rolling Meadows, all with increases of more than 40 percent.

Foreclosed homes sold through auction jumped 45 percent for the six-county Chicago area in the third quarter compared to the same period a year earlier.

Highest rates of increase in communities covered by Pioneer Press included Oak Park, which experienced a 62 percent increase; Franklin Park, which saw a 40 percent rise; Mundelein, a 34 percent increase; and Evanston, a 32 percent increase.

Smith predicts concerns over documentation and lender moratoriums on foreclosure auctions could bottleneck the process in the fourth quarter. That means more homes could remain vacant for longer periods, and significant jumps in foreclosure auctions in 2011.

Meanwhile, real estate agents and homeowners can’t understand why banks and lenders are making it so difficult for properties to sell, particularly through short sales, which allow owners to sell deeply devalued homes for less than what remains on their mortgages.

“There are so many layers” to go through at the banks, Mary Jane Oliver, an Oak Park Realtor, said. “I’m dealing with this everyday.”

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