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Thousands in Illinois still underwater on their mortgages

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Illinois residents are more commonly underwater on their homes than nearly any other state.

A report released Thursday by ATTOM Data Solutions shows that more than 16 percent of Illinois’ homes are what they called “seriously underwater,” meaning their outstanding mortgages are at least 25 percent higher than their home’s worth. Only Nevada has a higher percentage. The national average is 9.6 percent.

ATTOM Vice president Darin Blomquist says that the most common factors of states with underwater homes are low wage growth and high property taxes. Both plague Illinois. “People look at those taxes as the cost of homeownership,” he said. “That has a chilling effect on home prices.”

He says Illinois is an outlier. Unlike other states where the major metro areas like Las Vegas’ high percentage of underwater homes drag the rest of the state’s number up, Chicago’s only .3 percent higher than the state.

That means the metropolitan area isn’t driving up the percentage of underwater homes. It’s a statewide problem. “It is a widespread issue across the state that’s causing the high percentage statewide,” Blomquist said.

Another casualty of the underwater homes is jobs. The report says that Illinoisans are staying in their homes for an average of eight years, compared to just four to five years before the recession. This lack of cycling from starter home to larger houses creates a lag on the local construction economy, which according to a recent government employment report, is Illinois’ highest paying — and fastest declining — employment sector.

Nationally, there are 1 million fewer seriously underwater homes than there were in December of 2015.

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