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Series serves as a housing crisis guide

Four years after the U.S. housing bubble burst, the ripple effects continue to touch almost every facet of life in McHenry County.

In the fall of 2011, the effects still can be seen everywhere.

Consider this:

The median price for a home sold in McHenry County fell from $225,000 in 2006 to $168,250 in 2010, a drop of more than 25 percent.

The housing market remains flooded with foreclosed homes, causing home values to continue to decline and making it much more difficult for owner-occupied homes to sell.

While the number of foreclosed-upon homes has decreased in recent months, many experts say another wave is coming. Banks, already holding the keys to so many empty homes, have been much slower to foreclose for fear of putting even more homes on an already saturated market. But those foreclosures still will come at some point.

In 2003, McHenry County was tops in the nation in the number of owner-occupied households, with 86 percent of individuals or families living in homes they owned as opposed to rented. In 2010, that number dropped to 83 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Unemployment remains above 9 percent. And while the overall weakness of the U.S. economy is contributing to this, the construction trades have been hit especially hard locally because so few new homes are being built.

Because far fewer new families are moving into the area, student enrollment is dropping at area school districts, causing school boards to have to make tough decisions. Cary School District 26, for example, has closed two schools in two years because of declining enrollment. And Crystal Lake School District 47 is considering that option as its enrollment continues to decline.

Many area retail businesses continue to struggle. Empty storefronts are a testament to this, as are desperate pleas from retailers asking for more customer support.

Recruiting experienced talent also is more challenging. Who wants to relocate for a new job when you’re not sure you call sell your home?

Over the next five days, the Northwest Herald presents a series of five special sections that explore the continuing effects of the housing crisis on local residents and communities.

“Housing Road Map –A Survival Guide” will examine the many facets of the housing crisis. But, as its name suggests, it also will serve as a guide to readers through these tough times.

For this series, Northwest Herald reporters interviewed dozens of local residents and experts, including folks who have gone through foreclosure or are going through it, Realtors, home builders, bank executives and others.

We’ve analyzed a lot of data – about declining home prices locally, about foreclosure rates, and so much more.

We’ve also taken a look back at how the crisis unfolded –at how government, lenders and home buyers contributed to it.

And perhaps most importantly, we offer our readers information and guidance that we hope will help you navigate through these tough times.

As always, I’m interested in your feedback. Give me a call or send me an email with your thoughts and suggestions.

•Dan McCaleb is editor of the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by email at dmccaleb@shawmedia.com

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