Home foreclosures filed last year in the metro-east fell to pre-recession levels, and analysts believe the trend should continue into 2014.
"The market has improved, we can see that," said Al Suguitan, who oversees the real estate market in Madison County as president of the Greater Gateway Association of Realtors in Glen Carbon. "You don't have to be an economist to see that the overall economy is starting to improve."
There were 907 foreclosures filed in Madison County in 2013. After 103 foreclosures were filed in the county last January, filings never surpassed 95 in any of the remaining months during the rest of the year. At the height of the recession, in 2008, there were 1,435 properties in the county had filed for foreclosure.
In St. Clair County, 1,766 properties had filed for foreclosure in 2008. Last year, that figure fell to 1,010 properties, also a return to pre-recession levels. Like Madison County, January was the only month that St. Clair County recorded more than 100 foreclosure filings.
Tricia Tialdo, president of the Realtor Association of Southwestern Illinois in Belleville, said the housing market's recent recovery has been bolstered by a falling unemployment rate and rising consumer confidence.
"Two helpful signs for the economy are that the federal unemployment rate is at a five-year low of 7 percent and consumer confidence increased from November to December," Tialdo said. "Hopefully consumers are seeing the continuation of record-low interest rates and the value of the American dream of home ownership."
The metro-east market reflects a gradual recuperation that has been felt throughout the nation's housing market. According to Irvine, Calif.-based online real estate market tracker RealtyTrac, the number of homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages, or owe more on their properties than they are worth, has also been declining.
Last month, 9.3 million U.S. residential properties had a combined loan amount that was at least 25 percent higher than the property's estimated market value -- representing 19 percent of all properties with a mortgage in December. That was down from the 10.7 million, or 23 percent, property owners with a mortgage who faced the same circumstances last September. In January 2013, that number totaled 10.9 million, or 26 percent of all properties with a mortgage.
RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist said home prices have also been on the rise and helped the nation's housing market emerge from the recession, which was sparked by sub-prime loans about seven years before.
"The rising home prices are lifting all boats and helping boost the equity in their homes," Blomquist said. "The further turn around in the market, the better off we are for the long term."
Suguitan believes local real estate will continue to gain strength in the new year and hopes those who suffered from the past housing crisis may soon be able to put it behind them.
"I'm grateful that the foreclosure rate is dropping off and I hope that it continues to drop off for those families that have lost their home in foreclosure," he said. "I hope they can get back on their horse as quickly as they can and they can continue on their lives stabilize themselves."
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2526.