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Rockford has numerous residents underwater on their mortgages

Short sales might help one Illinois city

Posted on 10/21/13 8:34:00 AM

It's a tough question.

What would help the Rockford, Ill., housing market?

With roughly 32 percent of mortgage owners underwater, according to The Wall Street Journal, Rockford has become the nation's king of underwater homes.

It's a throne the city would gladly give up, but a lack of viable options has pushed residents into a corner.

"Certainly employment, lower taxes (would help)," John Murray, owner of Key Realty, told Fox Business News. "Right now, we have homeowners paying more on their tax bill than they are on their mortgage, that's a problem. Coupled with the fact that half the city's not working - that's a problem."

Rockford was once a noteworthy manufacturing center, home to inventions like the airbrush and automatic garage-door opener. The area excelled during the early 2000s, with many moving in from Chicagoland in order to acquire a more cost-efficient home.

"You could get a lot of house for your money," Rockford resident Lydell Johnson told The Wall Street Journal.

Johnson was part of the rush of people moving from Chicago to Rockford. He purchased a home in 2002 for $106,000, and he was able to find work at a number of different jobs.

In 2010, though, he was no longer able to find employment. He now owes $86,000 on his mortgage. He's yet to have his home appraised, but similar units from the neighborhood are going for as little as $20,000.

Now he's just one of the 32 percent looking for a lifeline.

What to do?
It might not be a long-term solution, but Jan Mansfield, owner of United Realty, told Fox Business News a quick fix for the city might be found in short sales.

"If we can get more people to start the process, when it would become a short sale, rather than going into foreclosure, the bank ends up better (and) the customer ends up better," Mansfield said.

Mansfield also noted that banks are finally learning how to expedite the short-sale process, which makes it a more appealing option for all parties involved.

"That would be one step that would help us to have fewer foreclosures, and I think help more people," Mansfield said.

One of the key problems in Rockford has been low appraisals. Mansfield stated that sellers in the area aren't willing to drop their prices in correlation to an appraiser's estimate.