Like hundreds of cities across the country, Chicago is trying to tackle the issue of too many foreclosed and vacant homes. The city is now requiring lenders to ensure that those abandoned properties are secured and maintained. Other cities have similar laws.
But the federal government is suing Chicago over its new rules in what's seen as a test case that could affect whether any city would be allowed to keep lenders on the hook for abandoned properties.
This week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that in the first quarter of 2012, the American homeownership rate hit its lowest level in 15 years. During the housing boom, millions more Americans bought homes, bumping the rate to nearly 70 percent. Now, that buying spree has been replaced with millions of foreclosures, and most of those gains have been lost.
The real estate market has turned around in some parts of the U.S., but many buyers aren't seeing true bargains anymore. Investors are driving up prices, and inventory is low, especially for homes priced under $250,000. That's not great news for anyone hoping to buy an affordable house to live in.
Arizona is home to one of the nation's extraordinary turnarounds. The Phoenix-area median home price rose 20 percent over the past year — 6 percent in March alone. And Tucson was recently named the nation's best market for investors. But the easy money has already been made.
Sales of previously owned homes are up more than 10 percent from last year, according to The Wall Street Journal. At the same time, the number of homes for sale is at the lowest levels in years. The result, say many real estate firms, is that most of the offers being made these days come with competing bids.
Earlier this month, a judge approved a settlement between five major banks and nearly all of the state attorneys general. The banks admitted to taking shortcuts — or "robo-signing" documents — as they pushed through some foreclosures.
Most of the $25 billion settlement is supposed to go toward reducing mortgage payments for some troubled homeowners. But lots of other programs have promised to help struggling homeowners in the past, and results have been disappointing.