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Cook County Foreclosure auctions rise

Almost 3,000 residential properties in Cook County were scheduled for foreclosure auctions in April, a level not seen since August 2010.

The 2,945 scheduled residential auctions compares with 1,563 in March and 1,844 in April 2012, according to data to be released Thursday by RealtyTrac.

While not all of those properties would be expected to complete the auction process, the uptick is considered a step forward in the local housing market's recovery.

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The firm also reported that the overall number of properties at some stage of the foreclosure process in the greater Chicago area, spanning from southeastern Wisconsin to northwestern Indiana, fell 5 percent from March and was down 23 percent from April 2012.

"For Illinois as a whole, we've now seen seven straight months where (foreclosure starts) are down from a year ago," said Daren Blomquist, a RealtyTrac vice president. "That's a good sign. There's fewer properties being added."

The local data mirror a national trend. In states like Illinois where local courts supervise the foreclosure process, scheduled auctions hit a 30-month high last month.

Judicial Sales Corp., a Chicago company that handles foreclosure sales, had 50 properties in Cook County on its auction calendar for Thursday. Auctions on more than 75 other properties within the county were canceled, either because of a private sale or a loan modification, or postponed.

"We're still really busy," said Peter Birnbaum, president and CEO of Attorneys' Title Guaranty Fund Inc., the parent company of Judicial Sales. "The backlog, between the robo-signing and the settlement and all the lenders calling a time out, that created a backlog of old cases."

On any given day, only six of 50 properties might be sold to another party at auction, Birnbaum estimated. The rest are repossessed by lenders and eventually put up for sale.

One uncertainty in the local market is the large number of homeowners who owe more on their mortgage than the property's value. In Illinois, according to RealtyTrac, 35 percent of all homeowners with a mortgage are seriously underwater, owing at least 25 percent more than their homes are worth. That compares with 26 percent of all borrowers nationally.

05/09/2013 - Mary Ellen Podmolik, Chicago Tribune


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