On Real Estate: Foreclosures still driving housing market

By Jim Hagerty

Staff Writer

While the initial wave of subprime foreclosures is largely behind us, another is proving to be a continuing factor in a sizable buyers’ market. With the Illinois unemployment rate (11 percent) at its highest in about 30 years, more properties are likely to be surrendered.

Even with banking incentives, most of which are FHA options, homeowners suddenly without income or forced to live on unemployment benefits are either downsizing or simply walking away. In either case, properties are being sold for much less, and bank-owned listings are still a good buy. The 19,946 foreclosures recorded in Illinois in October marked a 56 percent spike since 2005. Illinois, sixth a month ago, is now ranked third nationally in foreclosure activity, according to Realty Trac.

In April, lenders were forced to give troubled homeowners extra time to restructure their home loans. The measure, naturally, created a false sense of security and showed signs property owners were finding help and homes were not falling to lenders. As jobs, especially in the industrial sector, began drying up and restructure efforts became increasingly difficult for many, the October spike sent shockwaves through most markets, indicating the housing crisis is far from over.

The news is not all negative. Buyers in the right position still have the upper hand, even on properties listed by investors. Investors are able to pick up distressed properties for pennies on the dollar, thoroughly renovate them, pass on monumental savings to new buyers, and realize monumental profits.

From the November 25-December 1, 2009 issue

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