Special Report: The Problem of Negative Equity in Chicagoland is Far From Over

by Peter Thomas Ricci

Negative equity may be down in Chicagoland, but that doesn’t mean that it’s no longer a problem.


Last week, we reported a much-needed dosage of good news – that after peaking a few years back, negative equity in Chicagoland has fallen a pronounced 38.5 percent, putting it closer in line with the rest of the nation.

This week, though, we’re bringing things back down to earth with a troubling nuance to that decline – simply, that though negative equity had declined by marked amounts in Chicagoland’s upper-tier housing markets, it remains a considerable problem in lower-tier markets.

Based on exclusive numbers that Zillow provided us, here is now it breaks down:

  • In Chicagoland’s upper-tier markets, which Zillow considers homes priced $267,250 and above, only 10.38 percent of homes are in negative equity.
  • In the middle-tier markets, though, which are priced $146,550 to $267,250, that share rises to 23.90 percent.
  • And finally, in the lower-tier markets priced $146,550 and below, that share catapults to 41.43 percent – basically four times that of the upper-tier markets.

We’ve written on numerous occasions that housing’s recovery has been a profoundly unequal one, and it would appear that negative equity numbers sit rather comfortably within that narrative.

See our graph below to see how Chicagoland’s numbers compare with other major metro areas:

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