Foreclosure filings in seven Chicago-area counties swelled during June and the second quarter, keeping pressure on a local housing market trying hard to find a bottom.
Another 6,952 homes started the foreclosure process in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will counties, RealtyTrac data showed. That's a 27 percent increase from June 2011 when initial filings of foreclosure in the seven counties totaled 5,485. The number declined from May 2012, when 7,595 homes entered foreclosure.
For the second quarter as a whole, 18,927 homes entered foreclosure in the seven counties. That compares with 14,704 homes in the first quarter and 16,676 properties in 2011's second quarter.
Meanwhile, the number of homes repossessed by banks, which more directly affects the housing market, totaled 8,941 in the second quarter, after 10,314 were repossessed in the first quarter. In the three months ended in June 2011, 5,861 homes were repossessed.
An increase in activity was both feared and expected, following a year-long slowdown in foreclosures because of various state and federal investigations into mortgage-servicing practices that became generally known as the robo-signing scandal.
Those investigations culminated in a $25 billion settlement announced in April with the five largest mortgage servicers, at which time most housing experts said they expected servicers to start moving foreclosure actions through a clogged pipeline.
"Lenders and servicers are slowly but surely catching up with the backlog of delinquent loans that under normal circumstances would have started the foreclosure process last year," said Brandon Moore, RealtyTrac's CEO.
"The increase in foreclosure starts in the first half of the year will likely translate into more short sales and bank repossessions in the second half of the year and into next year."
For the state as a whole during the first half of the year, foreclosure activity was 22 percent higher than a year, making Illinois one of the 20 states to post an increase from the first six months of 2011.
That heightened level of activity, and the downward pressure it is putting on the housing market, is one reason why Zillow earlier this week named the Chicago area the best market in the nation for homebuyers to find a bargain.
Foreclosures also continue to exert pressure on the number of Chicago-area homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages, meaning they owe more on their loans than the current value of the properties. On Thursday, housing data firm CoreLogic reported that 32.7 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage in the Chicago area were underwater in the first quarter, up from 30.4 percent in the fourth quarter.
Last month, real estate agents cheered May's $100 increase in the median price of a home sold in the Chicago area, but they and local housing economists want to see several months of improvement before they conclude that a recovery is underway.
Nationally, the RealtyTrac report noted that while bank repossessions decreased during the second quarter, 311,010 properties began the foreclosure process, a 9 percent increase from a year ago. It was the first time since 2009's fourth quarter that foreclosure starts recorded a year-over-year gain.
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