The average Lee County house, which was assessed at more than $137,000 in 2009, dropped in value to about $129,000 this year, according to the county assessor's office.
That home, which was assessed at $100,000 in 2002, reached its peak in 2009, a year after the housing crash. Since then, the house has decreased in value every year, falling more than 6 percent in the past 4 years.
While that is significant, it's not as dramatic as in other areas of northern Illinois.
In the boom years of 2005-2007, "We didn't see the growth the Chicago area did," Lee County Assessor Wendy Ryerson said. "We don't experience the same highs or lows that they do. We are more stabilized here."
The decrease in value has slowed, to less than 1 percent in the past year.
What's going to happen now with housing values?
"I expect to see a slow increase," she said, “very slow.”
Whiteside County's data on average housing values goes back only to 2010.
According to assessor's office statistics, a Whiteside County house assessed at $100,000 in 2010 had dropped by this year to about $95,500, which is down almost 2 percent over the past year.
From 2010 to 2013, an average house's value dropped 4.5 percent in Whiteside County and 5.9 percent in Lee County. That compares well to Rockford. During an even shorter timespan – from 2010 to 2012 – an average house's value in Rockford declined 12 percent in Rockford, according to information compiled by the Rockford Register Star.
Statewide, the median prices for housing increased 12.9 percent in September over the previous year, according to the Illinois Association of Realtors.
Chicagoland saw some of the biggest increases, by 22.6 percent in the city and 15.6 percent in the suburbs.
"Communities are not treated equally when it comes to demand for housing," said Jon Broadbooks, a spokesman with the Illinois Association of Realtors. "One of the things in the Chicago area is there was a tremendous amount of bad loans. You can argue whether the loans should have been made or not, but it has taken several years to clean that up. In smaller communities, you didn't have that dynamic going on."
Real estate, he said, remains a sound, long-term investment.
"Despite everything that happened in the housing bust, I don't think people would be buying houses if they didn't think there was some value in ownership of property," Broadbooks said. "If you look at it in aggregate, you will see property values increase over time. They don't make more land."
Chris King, president of the Sauk Valley Association of Realtors, said she expected small increases in housing values in the area.
"I don't see any major changes until we have a major announcement of economic value to us. We'll be much slower than the rest of the state," said King, who works at United Country Sauk Valley Realty.
She said she hopes the eventual opening of a federal prison in Thomson will someday help the Sauk Valley economically, referring to the federal government's plans to open a prison along the Mississippi River in Carroll County.
Ryerson said assessments always lag behind changes in housing prices because they are based on a 3-year rolling average, which prevents volatility for taxing bodies and taxpayers.
"It provides for a stabilized revenue stream," she said.
The Lee County assessor recently sent valuation notices to property owners. Residents have until Nov. 22 to file appeals. Whiteside County’s deadline has passed.
Call the Lee County assessor’s office at 815-288-4483.