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Zillow Maps the Downhill Run—and the Civic Federation Finds a Silver Lining

On Monday, Zillow, the online realty information service, released its report on changes in real-estate values during the second quarter of 2010. It showed that nationwide, home values were down 0.6 percent from the prior quarter and 3.2 percent from the year before. The Chicago area did better than the national average on one measure: prices were up here by 1.6 percent from the winter quarter…

On Monday, Zillow, the online realty information service, released its report on changes in real-estate values during the second quarter of 2010. It showed that nationwide, home values were down 0.6 percent from the prior quarter and 3.2 percent from the year before. The Chicago area did better than the national average on one measure: prices were up here by 1.6 percent from the winter quarter. But on a year-to-year basis, our region’s prices were down 4.4 percent. By Zillow’s measure, Chicago-area home values are down 27.2 percent from the peak, July 2006.

The Zillow data becomes more interesting at the very local level, where it shows the path of home values for individual neighborhoods and towns. Choose your location and check out how Zillow graphs home-value changes over the past five years (you can also see changes for one or ten years). In some cases, it’s like riding a roller coaster. Here are some examples.

  • In Chicago’s North Center neighborhood, home values kept cranking uphill well into 2008, more than a year after many other neighborhoods had hit the downslope. But then values there endured two quick drops before turning upward (very slightly) in the latest quarter. According to Zillow, prices are now about 29.7 percent below their April 2008 peak.
  • Over the last five years, two downtown neighborhoods—Dearborn Park and Near North—jerked upward and downward repeatedly within a band that ranged from their peak prices to a spot about 18 percent below that. Then in the second quarter, the bottom fell out. According to the Zillow report, Dearborn Park is now down 24 percent from its February 2008 peak, and Near North is down 35 percent from its June 2006 peak.
  • The ride down has been smoother in Naperville and Glen Ellyn, where Zillow shows a series of declines beginning in 2006 that lead to current prices about 18 percent below the peak.
  • The drop has been scarier and faster in Northbrook, where prices kept climbing until mid-2007 and have been going down ever since. According to Zillow, they are now 34.8 percent below their peak value.

Zillow also reported that about 28.9 percent of Chicago-area homeowners are “under water”—that is, they owe more on their homes than their homes are worth. That’s an improvement from the prior quarter, when 31.8 percent were under water, but it’s still a frighteningly high figure that lends credence to the prediction that another wave of foreclosures could be headed our way.

In a different study, out last week, the Civic Federation reported that in 2008 the total value of all Cook County real estate—not just homes—was 7.2 percent below its 2006 peak. Bigger drops might show up in subsequent federation reports, with data from 2009 and 2010. But for now, the latest report contains a mark of pride for city residents. In 2008, for the first time since the federation started tracking this in 1999, the combined value of all real estate within the city was worth slightly more than the real estate in all of suburban Cook County. (Each of the two is now valued at just over $300 billion.)

“The city has been able to retain its real-estate growth slightly better than suburban areas have,” says Lise Valentine, the organization’s vice president and director of research. One big reason for that, she says, is that “the city has achieved quite a bit of revitalizing” since 1999.

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