SOUTH BEND — Homes usually hit the market this time of year, but local realtors believe this year will be another challenge. More foreclosures are expected to hit, and there's no improvement in the housing market forecast either.
Granger resident Angela Chilcote has been thinking a lot lately. Her father comes to mind. So does her former next door neighbor.
"He watered the lawn, had the sprinklers," she said. "[The lawn was] manicured, unbelievable."
When times got tough, her neighbor Vince lost his job. Eventually, he lost his home.
"He was so close to the stage that he and his wife were thinking where are we going to retire," said Chilcote. "They weren't thinking: Now I have to sell my house to pay bills."
Angela believes it's the new reality in her neighborhood.
"Here in the next month or two there will be a lot of homes on the market," Chilcote fears.
Housingpredictor.com anticipates a 6 percent drop in sales throughout the South Bend area.
Numbers were low in 2010 because of high unemployment and underemployment. That's not good news for people with underwater mortgages who owe more than what their home is worth.
Chilcote takes great pride in her home, but the troubles hit especially close. She is afraid her mortgage is an underwater mortgage. Keeping up with payments hasn't been easy either.
"We've had to dip into our IRA to make mortgage payments," she said.
There's no silver lining to Chilcote’s story. Real estate experts say people in her position could sell at a loss.
"Anybody in this market who bought in the last five or six years, chances are they bought when the bubble was at the top," said John Grcich, who works for a local realtor.
It's a buyers market:
"Put your best foot forward," said Grcich.
For some, that means big decisions.
"You have to decide to walk away and let bank have it, or do you stay?" questioned Chilcote.
The number of Americans who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth rose at the end of last year.
CoreLogic says about 11 million homes, or 23 percent of all mortgaged homes, were underwater at the end of last year. That's up from 22 percent from the previous quarter.