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Reasons to be optimistic

Despite continued ups and downs, housing market now trending in a positive direction

The local housing market is seeing improvements in some areas and declines in others, according to reports from the Grundy County Economic Development Council.

Home sales and values in the county are up, but so are foreclosure rates.

Agricultural land values have seen general improvement, but residential building permits have remained low since the economic collapse in 2008.

“It’s just all over the board,” said Nancy Norton Ammer, CEO of the GEDC. “It’s been really up and down, a lot of good news/bad news.”

So let’s start with the good news.

Between March 25 of last year and March 24 of this year, home sales in Grundy County have gone up 14 percent, from 373 sold in 2012 to 426. In that same period, median home values have improved by 7.1 percent, from $140,000 to $150,000.

Morris in particular saw improvement, with both an 18.9 percent jump in sales and a 6.7 percent hike in values.

Conversely, Coal City/Diamond/Carbon Hill homes remained virtually the same in value, but saw a 9.1 decrease in home sales, dropping from 66 to 60.

Those numbers, for Ammer, point to the “up and down” nature of the market right now.

But compare this year’s “March-to-March” numbers to those collected from Jan. 1, 2012 and Dec. 31, 2012, and Ammer sees something to be positive about.

Same goes with agricultural land prices, which were 15 percent higher in the third quarter of 2012 than the same quarter in 2011.

Where the trouble comes in is foreclosure rates, which increased by 71.4 percent from 2011 to 2012, jumping from 287 to 492. That’s the highest increase of any county in the Chicago area over that year.

However, the actual number of foreclosures compared to other counties remains fairly low.

And foreclosures represent just 2.5 percent of total housing units in the county — less than other “high-growth counties,” such as Kendall (with 7.7 percent) and Will (4.9 percent).

To Ammer, that’s something to be optimistic about.

“Even though we’ve had this peak, we’re still among the lowest in the area,” she said.

Ammer said that of the housing statistics in the report, the most striking was the drop in building permits.
Between 1996 and 2002, according to the chart, the number of building permits fluctuated between 163 and 292.

In 2003 and 2004, the county saw a huge boom in permits, soaring to 802 and 827, respectively.

In 2005, it dropped to 527, and in 2006, to 345; both years still well above previous years.

Between 2007 and 2012, however, that number has gone from 138 to a mere 44.

Ammer sees the challenges facing Grundy County reflected in the nation as a whole. And compared with other counties across the nation, she feels Grundy is weathering the storm well.

“The recovery has been spotty,” Ammer said, “but we are trending in a positive direction.”

“Just not as quickly as we’d like to.”

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