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home : news : north central illinois   May 26, 2016

11/16/2013 6:38:00 AM
La Salle County: Nearly 1,500 defaulting on taxes

Tom Collins
NewsTribune Senior Reporter

OTTAWA — La Salle County treasurer Don Lamps loves his job — except at this time of year.
La Salle County property taxes were due shortly after Labor Day, and Lamps has completed the unpleasant tasks of mailing delinquent notices and publishing the names of those who still haven’t paid up.
Now comes the part he really hates: Sending those homes in default to the auction block.
“It’s a huge frustration for me,” said Lamps, who anticipates 2½ percent of all taxable parcels are in default this year. “I hate to see people lose their homes.”
How many homeowners will not be put onto the street this Christmas? Not many: Late tax bills are typically paid by third parties who cover the past-due sums and charge interest. Most homeowners thus will have a chance to pay the back taxes (plus interest and fees) before the auctioneer steps in.
Nevertheless, Lamps is troubled by sheer volume of properties on the wrong side of his ledgers. As of Wednesday, there were 1,491 parcels presented for sale. Ten years ago, 841 parcels were presented for sale.
Worse, this year’s 1,491 tax sales is likely a record for La Salle County. Numbers from Lamps’ office show there were 1,526 tax sales in 2012 — a figure that could be surpassed with 45 days left in the year — and  Lamps said the 2012 figure was inflated, anyway. His office grappled with a computer overhaul that forced the postponement of many 2011 sales into the 2012 column.
Even if this year’s total isn’t La Salle County’s highest ever, Lamps said he is concerned with the trend.
After the Great Recession officially ended in 2009, the number of homes in default slid — for a while. But stubborn unemployment and stagnant wages have dashed his hopes that La Salle County residents were catching up and staying ahead of the tax man.
At least foreclosures in La Salle County are finally on the decline.
The La Salle County Recorder of Deeds reported 404 new foreclosure proceedings through Nov. 13, putti­ng the county on pace for 466 for the year. That figure still is higher than authorities would like — the county averaged 339 a year during the pre-bubble era — but nonetheless marks a welcome decline from recent years. Last year, for example, there were more than 600.
Nevertheless, the sheer volume of homes already foreclosed has weighed heavily on the real estate market and hurt home values.
One Realtor said the Illinois Valley still is feeling the effects of the bubble years when lenders issued risky mortgages and then watched as homeowners defaulted in record numbers, flooding the market with existing homes whose values were flattened in the crash.
Linda Kaszynski, a broker for Janko Realty in Peru, said the number of foreclosures and short sales has not leveled off. That’s a problem for homeowners because appraisals are built on comparable values; when neighboring houses are in foreclosure then home values are held in check.
“It’s all about pricing,” Kaszynski said. “If you list a property and it’s priced appropriately, it will move. And if it’s not priced appropriately, it will sit.”

Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 223-3206 Ext. 130 or

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