By Karen Berkowitz
May 27, 2009
Foreclosure filings are increasing at a faster pace in the north and
northwest suburbs than in other sections of Cook County as mortgage
defaults spread well beyond the subprime loan market.

In the north suburbs of Cook County, the first three months of 2009
saw a 67 percent increase in the number of properties with foreclosure
filings (589), compared with the same period of 2008 (353), according
to the latest data from the Woodstock Institute.

Similarly, foreclosure filings were up 68 percent in the northwest
suburbs of Cook County, rising from 672 in the first three months of
2008 to 1,126 in the same period this year. The period between January
and March is traditionally the slowest period of the year, while the
volume is heaviest in the fourth quarter.

The upturn continued a trend seen during 2008, when foreclosures
nearly doubled in the north and northwest suburbs, outpacing the
six-county metropolitan region at large, according to the Woodstock
analysis. Still, the overall volume of foreclosures continues to be
higher in the western and southern suburbs, as well as the city of

Among the suburbs served by Pioneer Press, some of the largest
percentage increases were seen in Skokie, up 115 percent; Park Ridge,
up 104 percent, and Niles, up 93 percent. Lake Forest saw a 500 percent
increase, though the actual number of foreclosures between January and
March, 12, was comparatively small. In Wilmette, the 21 foreclosure
filings in the first three months of the year marked a 250 percent
increase over 2008 and represented nearly one-half the number seen in
all of 2008.

With the housing crisis taking a toll on both homeowners and home
values, Cook County Assessor James Houlihan announced in mid-May that
he would adjust suburban home assessments downward before the next
scheduled reassessment to reflect market conditions.

"The situation we are facing is extraordinary," said Houlihan, of
the declining home prices tied to foreclosures, short sales and a
sluggish market. Assessments will be lowered in each of the suburban
townships to reflect specific market trends in that township. The
reductions, he said, are likely to range between 4 percent and 15

"Although the worst of the wave of foreclosures tied to the highest
risk mortgages … may have passed, there remain significant concerns
about the financial condition of homeowners," noted the authors of
Woodstock’s report summarizing activity in during the 12 months of
2008. "The continued weakness in the local housing market, combined
with the declining local and national economy, have led to increased
default and foreclosures rates" for both prime-rate mortgages and those
a notch below prime, said the authors. "These conditions are expected
to continue through 2009," noted the authors.

The Woodstock report also cited concerns about higher-risk
mortgages such as payment-option ARMS (adjustable rate mortgages),
which give borrowers leeway in how much to pay each month.

While moratoriums and loan modifications may help slow the rate of
foreclosures, the report cited the likelihood that some homeowners will
not be able to keep up with the terms of the new payment plans intended
to help them save their homes.

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