Foreclosure activity high, but glimmer of hope (Pioneer Press)

By Lynne Stiefel

July 29, 2010

The number of homes facing foreclosure dipped slightly in some Chicago's suburbs in the first half of 2010, compared to the last half of 2009, but were considerably higher than totals from the first half of 2009, according to data compiled by the Woodstock Institute.

The new foreclosure filings continued to hit hard communities with middle- and higher-income households, with the vast majority filed on single-family properties. But condominiums made up a substantial, and in some cases growing, share of the overall foreclosure activity, the institute found.

New filings on condominiums grew most dramatically in north and northwest suburban Cook County, growing by 77 and 76 percent, respectively, from the first half of 2009 to the first half of 2010.

Many of the new condominium foreclosures may be extremely concentrated geographically in large suburban developments, a closer analysis by the institute indicated.

In northwest Cook County, for example, foreclosure filings on 98 condominium units in a single development represented 7 percent of the total condominium filings in that region in the first half of 2010. Municipalities in that region with the largest number and concentration of condominium foreclosures include Palatine, Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, Wheeling and Arlington Heights.

But the data shows some glimmers of hope that the rise of foreclosure filings since the recession began in 2008 may be slowing.

Of the 25 suburbs served by Pioneer Press that are among the six-county region's most populous, the total number of filings increased from the first half of 2010 compared to the first half of 2009 in all of them.

Foreclosure filings in Oak Park in the first half of 2010 were nearly double -- at 161 -- the number from the same period a year earlier. They were up just 1 percent in Maywood by comparison.

"We're pretty comfortable in saying that in harder hit communities, we'll see consistently declining levels of new foreclosure activities. There are no more loans to foreclose on," said Geoff Smith, the institute's senior vice president. "That's positive in the sense of cycling bad loans out of the system. Once that hits bottom, they can start to rebuild."

Foreclosure filings decreased in the first half of 2010 from the last half of 2009 in all but four of the Pioneer Press suburbs -- Grayslake, Mundelein, Melrose Park and Oak Park. But Smith said that's probably because government programs initiated in the first half of 2009 pushed many of the foreclosure filings later into the year.

"It's a shift, not an overall reduction in foreclosure case filings," Smith said. "In general, suburban communities are being affected by unemployment and homeowners who owe more on mortgages than the properties are worth. I don't see that changing any time soon. I think that's going to be a continued drag on" the housing market.

In Wilmette, however, foreclosure filings dropped to 42 in the first half of 2010 from 74 in the last half of 2009, a total on par with the 36 recorded in the first half of 2009.

Foreclosure filings in Glenview decreased to 140 in the first half of 2010 from 175 in the last half of 2009; in Morton Grove to 102 from 137; in Elmwood Park to 149 from 180; and in Buffalo Grove to 149 from 186.

All told, more than 39,200 foreclosure filings were made in the six-county Chicago area in the first half of this year, up from 28,500 a year earlier, according to the institute.

Northern Cook County recorded 1,400 filings in the first half of 2010; northwest Cook County, 3,160; west Cook County, 2,870; and Lake County, 3,565.

Completed foreclosure auctions decreased slightly in the entire area by 7 percent from the first quarter of 2010 to the second quarter of 2010.

Foreclosed homes sold through auction in the first half of 2010 totalled about 230 in northern Cook County; 640 in northwest Cook County; 540 in western Cook County; and just over 700 in Lake County.

An average of 95 percent of foreclosure auctions in the six-county region resulted in lenders taking over the properties.

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