Do you know someone who has recently lost or is about to lose his house in a foreclosure? If you don’t, you may very soon—and that’s true whether you’re rich, poor, or somewhere in the middle. The latest and most precise figures show that foreclosures are on the rise everywhere in the Chicago area, including such affluent places as Glencoe, Lake Forest, Hinsdale, and Lincoln Park.
Last week, the National Training and Information Center released figures compiled by Record Information Services (RIS), a data-gathering company based in far western Kane County. The figures compare the number of new foreclosures in the first half of 2006 with the same period in 2007. They are broken out for 77 individual neighborhoods in the city and 254 suburbs and outlying towns in the Chicago area.
Keep in mind that some of these communities are very small. Eight or nine foreclosures may not seem so bad, but scattered among only a few hundred houses, they are significant. High-priced areas with big leaps in their foreclosure rates include:
- Burr Ridge, up 350 percent
- Riverwoods, up 300 percent
- Northfield, up 250 percent
- Kildeer, up 200 percent
- Glencoe, up 150 percent
- Hinsdale, up 136.4 percent
- Wheaton, up 118.5 percent
- Lincoln Park, 105.6 percent
- Lincoln Square, up 100 percent
- Highland Park, up 95.5 percent
- Naperville, up 75.9 percent
In each chart, RIS listed communities in order from the densest concentration of new foreclosures to the least. In the suburbs, Bellwood was the densest, with 43.3 foreclosures per square mile. Ten communities were the least dense, with zero foreclosures per square mile; they include Barrington Hills, Kenilworth, Hodgkins, and several small, far-flung towns. The city neighborhood with the densest concentration of foreclosures was West Englewood, with 111.2; the least dense was the Riverdale, with 1.2. Most analysts are saying that a heavy concentration of foreclosed properties foretells a sharp decline in property values, so these figures may tell a lot about where we might see disinvestment create new ghost towns.
But the more revealing columns in these charts are the ones that show the increase (and in a few cases, the decrease) in a community’s number of foreclosures. The raw numbers may not seem so big—in Glencoe, for example, the number of foreclosures went from two in the first half of 2006 to five in the first half of 2007—but the percentage change speaks loudly.
“You always have a certain level of foreclosures because of job loss or divorce or major health catastrophes,” says Jeff Metcalf, the CEO of RIS. What we’re seeing now, he suggests, is the “result of people wanting to get that house with the pool or the tennis court or the three extra bedrooms. A lot of upscale people took advantage of the low adjustable [mortgage] rates, and now they’re feeling squeezed when the rates went up.”
Subprime mortgages, those typically extended to lower-income people with poor credit history—and, in many cases, little financial expertise—still account for about four out of five foreclosures, according to figures from Metcalf, but the remainder may be people “who took the risk knowing it was a risk, and they lost the bet,” he says.
Having taken up residence far west of the city, where many new subdivisions lie, Metcalf also has a theory on why several outer-ring suburbs have seen big spikes in their numbers of foreclosures: People buy out there for the affordable new homes, and the sellers of these new homes tell them property taxes will be low.
“Then,” says Metcalf, “after a few years, when the schools and the police and the fire department and the library have all raised taxes to keep up with the new population, the tax bill hits them hard and a lot of them can’t afford to keep the house.”
So what about you? Do you know anyone in foreclosure? Are you in foreclosure? Tell me about it. I’d like to know how you got there. Maybe I will put your story here on the blog in a future edition.