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Housing Bulletin: Job Cuts May Spur More Foreclosures

The foreclosure crisis continues to morph. Even as new data show that foreclosures on condos are multiplying faster than those on single-family homes, real-estate experts suggest that foreclosures, boosted by pervasive job cuts in the sagging economy, may soon aggressively climb the socioeconomic…

The foreclosure crisis continues to morph. Even as new data show that foreclosures on condos are multiplying faster than those on single-family homes, real-estate experts suggest that foreclosures, boosted by pervasive job cuts in the sagging economy, may soon aggressively climb the socioeconomic ladder. 

“It’s going to move from the blue-collar [homeowner] to middle management and higher,” says Menash Zadik, the managing broker of Rising Realty. Each week, his company sends out a list of Chicago-area foreclosed homes available for sale.  “We’re starting to see them in what used to be nonforeclosure areas: Glenview, Highland Park, Skokie,” he says.

The numbers are still small: last week’s list of almost 600 foreclosed properties had two each in Glenview and Highland Park and four in Skokie. But Zadik anticipates larger numbers in more affluent suburbs as job cuts take their toll on the middle class. “You will see more white-collar people who were able to keep going for a few months after [losing a job], but finally have to let go of the house,” he says.

At the Woodstock Institute, a policy organization that has been aggressively tracking foreclosures locally, Geoff Smith says the impact of job losses and the generally moribund economy is a real concern. “They might be [responsible for] high levels of foreclosures in 2009,” he says. “In 2007 and 2008, you saw a lot of foreclosures tied to unsustainable loans, and those were concentrated in lower-income areas. You are going to see more foreclosures that are tied to the economy than to toxic loans.”

And job losses, Smith points out, are not confined to lower-income areas. “With job loss, you won’t have as big a safety net as you had in the past,” he says. “The expected time of looking for a new job now is nine months to a year. Do your unemployment benefits cover your debt service that long?”

These foreclosure increases, if they do occur, will be on top of 2008’s already frighteningly high number of foreclosures—up 52 percent from 2007. In 2008, according to the Woodstock Institute, 57,927 residential properties in the six-county area had a foreclosure filing; in 2007, there were 38,215.

Last week, Smith’s group reported that foreclosures on condos in the city had spiked even more sharply than single-family home foreclosures. They shot up by 139 percent in Chicago in 2008, compared to a 37.6 percent increase on houses. Condos still make up just 19 percent of the total foreclosures, but the sharp upward growth in their numbers is worrisome. “[Condo foreclosures] were concentrated in neighborhoods where there had been a lot of [condo] conversions in the past few years,” Smith says. The neighborhoods with high concentrations of condo foreclosures in 2008 included Rogers Park, where 80.5 percent of the year’s 287 foreclosures were condos; Uptown (88.2 percent of 127 foreclosures) West Ridge (68.2 percent of 525 foreclosures), and Lincoln Square (66.9 percent of 151 foreclosures).

But Smith says there is hope that a potential upward climb of foreclosures might be mitigated by two things: the effectiveness of the foreclosure intervention programs that banks have rolled out, and possible aid to homeowners in the second half of the federal stimulus package. But only time will reveal the effectiveness of those remedies. “As the economy worsens,” says Smith, “you’re going to see there are lots of [foreclosed homeowners] who didn’t have bad loans, just a bad situation.”
 

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