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Foreclosure Not A Major Issue, but Area Still Affected

While Winnetka hasn't seen foreclosures rates similar to other communities, real estate issues remain.

It became the word synonymous with the economic meltdown of the last decade: foreclosure. The story is known so well at this point. Banks gave mortgages to marginal candidates at best and when they couldn’t keep up with the payments, the homes were foreclosed on and the entire American economy was shaken to its core.

While the economy is showing signs of life, the housing market is still trying to shake off all the problems of recent years.

In the Chicago area, according to RealtyTrac, a California-based company that tracks such data, foreclosures were up in 43 percent over the past year.

Specifically in terms of foreclosures, the problem has now even spread to houses of worship.

Earlier:

But while the foreclosure situation has caused woes throughout the country, even in other places on the North Shore, it hasn’t been such a dilemma in Wilmette and Winnetka.

“From community development if there was a recent uptick, we haven’t noticed it,” said John Adler, Wilmette’s Community Development Director. “We have not received additional calls due to vacant properties under going through foreclosure. At the start of the downturn, we did receive a slight increase, but we haven’t heard anything.”

Specifically, according to the Woodstock Institute, a Chicago-based research institution that tracks foreclosures, Winnetka, had 32 foreclosure filings in 2009 and 34 in 2010. In Wilmette, there were 110 filings in 2009 and 81 in 2010. Juxtapose those numbers against , which had 552 filings in 2009 and 598 in 2010 and it is easy to see the problem is not as bad as it could be.

“We haven’t had the problems some other towns have had,” Adler said.

Following that same theme, Mike D’Onofrio, Winnetka’s Community Development Director noted, “It just hasn’t risen to the level of concern expressed within the village. There does not appear to be a lot of properties in the village that have been foreclosed on.”

Besides the property values being affected by foreclosures, another major issue is the condition of the property. But both community officials say with the number of foreclosures relatively small, the respective villages have been able the maintenance issues on a case-to-case basis and been able to work with the owner of the property – which is usually a bank – to handle the situation.

Peter Moulton, a Vice President at @Properties real estate firm in Evanston said the typical housing buyer in Wilmette and Winnetka knows what they are looking for which does help prevent foreclosure from taking place.

“The New Trier district is outperforming other districts in terms of distressed properties. However, the average homeowner-based on median income and education level, they are very sophisticated consumers. If they are approaching a short sale, rather than ruining their credit, they are confronting the situation and many times have the means to bring money to the table and negotiate with the bank.”

However, while the number of foreclosures has been relatively sparse in Wilmette and Winnetka, it does not mean the real estate issues have not been a factor.

“According to the Case-Shiller Index, the Chicago metropolitan market since the peak of the market in September 2006, Chicago is down 32 percent in terms of median home owner,’ Moulton said. “The biggest issue we face are homeowners that purchased their homes five to seven years are having a difficult time having expectations that are actually in line with the market.”

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