Nearly one-third of Rockford metropolitan area homeowners are underwater on their mortgages. That means they owe more than their homes are worth. This number comes from the real-estate data firm "Lender Processing Services," but Rockford real estate leaders say the focus should be where the area is headed.
A recent Wall Street Journal article gives Rockford a new title; underwater mortgage capital of America. With 32% of metro area homes worth less than what's owed on them.
"I think from Wall Street's perspective, they don't know us." -says Rockford Area Realtors CEO Steve Bois.
Bois admits the Forest City and its surroundings are still battling out of the housing crisis. He says the local unemployment rate isn't helping. It's higher than 11%, but Bois believes the area is changing economically.
"We are a re-emerging city, we are re-inventing ourselves. We went through a lifecycle where we were a traditional manufacturing town, training people for traditional manufacturing jobs. It's now high-technology, it's more engineering focused so as we go through that transition we're going to have these statistics."
Bois says education is changing, too; it's becoming career-focused with academy-style opportunities. This allows students to be ready for high-skilled work right out of school. Plus, some housing statistics are moving in Rockford's favor.
"On the positive side, significant home prices rising are helping pulling more distressed borrowers out of the water. Locally, fresh foreclosure filings continue to significantly drop." -he explains.
For the third of Rockford area homeowners underwater, financial experts say there's help available.
"They have a lot of choices out there, the biggest and most helpful is the Home Affordable Refinance Program, called HARP. If you did your last loan prior to June 1st, 2009, you would be eligible under HARP to refinance and that does not matter what your house is worth today." -says Riverside Community Bank Mortgage Vice President Pat Young.
She says the first step to see if you qualify for HARP is to contact your mortgage lender.
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