BLOOMINGTON — Home foreclosure filings in McLean County are on pace to be the lowest they've been in more than a decade, and experts expect that trend continue.
In the first six months of the year, there were 146 filings in the county, a drop of more than 30 percent from the 209 filings during the same period in 2013, according to data from the McLean County Recorder's Office.
If the pace continues the county could end the year with fewer than 300 foreclosure filings, a number not seen since before 2003.
Filings peaked in 2010 at 585 in McLean County, with 274 filed by June 30.
The decline in filings is a sign of a recovering economy, improved housing market and increased consumer confidence, said Ken Springer, vice president of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council.
“The healthier our economy is, the better our home mortgages are going to be,” Springer said. “I think folks out there who are buying houses are making sure their financial ducks are in a row and that is ultimately having an impact on the amount of foreclosures we're seeing.”
In 2013, there were 390 foreclosure filings in McLean County, a 19.5 percent decrease from 2012, when there were 485, according to the recorder's office data.
Since 2010, the number of foreclosure filings in the county has gradually decreased each year. Before last year, the last time there were fewer than 400 foreclosure filings in the county was 2005, when there were 357 foreclosures filed.
The improved outlook in the county is part of a national trend, said Mike Seeborg, an economics professor at Illinois Wesleyan University.
“When people aren't underwater with mortgages, and as housing values creep back up, it makes it possible for folks to sell their home on the market and not have to have it foreclosed,” Seeborg said.
It can often take six months for the sale of a foreclosed home to be complete, said Ed Neaves, managing broker for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Snyder Real Estate in Bloomington. On average, a home not in foreclosure takes 40-60 days to sell.
In the last two years, Neaves said that banks have been selling multiple foreclosed homes at once to investment companies that then rent out the properties.
"If a property is priced properly and in good condition it will sell quickly no matter its status," he said.
As of Tuesday, there were 1,330 homes for sale in McLean County. Neaves guessed that about 10 percent of the homes on the market are foreclosed properties.
“It's unfortunate that we still have foreclosed properties, but we're moving in the right direction to get that number down and hopefully strengthen the market,” Neaves said.
Randy Clark, vice president and area mortgage sales manager at Busey Bank in Bloomington, said the bank has had to foreclose on fewer homes this year, likely because people are able to make their mortgage payments on time.
“It is our goal to keep people in their houses if we can. Banks don't want to foreclose on houses,” Clark said.
The number of days a foreclosed home is on the market is also shrinking, Clark added.
“Overall consumer confidence is up. I think it has just been long enough since the recession that people are starting to feel good about themselves,” Clark said.
The number of people needing foreclosure intervention and solution services through Mid Central Community Action, a non-profit housing and family services agency in Bloomington, has also decreased as foreclosures have dropped, said Angela Frazier, director of finance with MCCA.
“I think with the economy recovering, people have found other ways to somehow make it work,” Frazier said.
The organization continues to offer foreclosure programs, including workshops, one-on-one counseling, home buyer education and mortgage modification help.
“National research shows that with pre-purchase home buyer education, it increases the sustainability for the homeowner and it reduces the chances of mortgage defaults,” Frazier said.
Looking ahead, Springer said he expects the foreclosure filings to continue to decrease as the local and national economies improve.
“I'm inclined to be very optimistic about how 2014 is going to shake out,” Springer said.