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Despite that fact that the nation as a whole experienced a 3 percent drop in foreclosures last year, Illinois saw its foreclosure activity spike a whopping 33 percent in 2012 when compared to 2011, according to a recent report by RealtyTrac, an online foreclosure tracking organization.

In fact, 2.58 percent of all Illinois homes received a foreclosure filing in 2012 - giving it the fifth highest rate in the entire United States. Also, there were 135,858 homes that were bank-owned or at some point in the foreclosure process at the end of the year.

In Cook County alone, 70,233 homes received a foreclosure filing in 2012 - with DuPage County properties receiving 10,443, Lake County with 10,555 and Will County properties receiving 9,591 foreclosure filings.

Given that Illinois is a judicial foreclosure state - meaning foreclosures have to go through the local court system - a foreclosure currently takes 697 days to complete. Interestingly, 20 of 25 states that experienced an increase in foreclosure activity in 2012 were judicial foreclosure states.

Options when facing foreclosure in Chicago

Homeowners in Chicago - or throughout Illinois - facing foreclosure need to know that several options exist. For example, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be a viable choice if the goal is to save the home.

However, if the homeowner is more concerned with simply protecting credit and unloading the home without any continued liability, an option such as a deed in lieu of foreclosure may be a better choice.

Generally, a deed in lieu of foreclosure (DILF) is when the a bank and a homeowner agree that the bank will accept the deed to the home in exchange for the bank not foreclosing, meaning that no formal foreclosure actually occurs; this helps preserve a homeowner's credit score. A DILF also protects the homeowner from deficiency judgments, which would otherwise occur if the bank sold the home at a foreclosure sale for less than what the homeowner still owned on the mortgage.

For instance, picture a couple that bought a home in 2006 for $750,000. The couple - Blake and Crystal - obtain a $600,000 mortgage on the property at the time of purchase. Unfortunately, the value of Blake and Crystal's home drops dramatically during the housing market crash until it is only valued at $400,000 in 2013, but, they still owe over $450,000 on their initial mortgage - meaning their home is severely underwater.

Making matter worse, Blake and Crystal fall upon hard economic times and find that their mortgage payment is now unsustainable. If the couple can convince their bank to agree to a DILF, they will no longer be responsible for the $450,000 mortgage, not to mention that the bank will not be able to pursue them for a deficiency judgment if the bank ends up selling the home for less than $450,000.

A DILF is simply one option that homeowners facing foreclosure may take advantage of, but each situation may have a different ideal alternative. Accordingly, if you are currently facing foreclosure, it is advisable to speak with an experienced foreclosure defense attorney to discover with your options may be given your circumstances.

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