Change in attitude can make a world of difference, says real estate agent: Chanute series

 “The Bible says the power of life and death is in the tongue. We gotta start speaking about life and not death.”

Real estate agent Gary Crane says he was one of those who used to talk negatively about Rantoul but he says things have changed.

Things did change dramatically for the lifelong Rantoul resident when the Chanute Air Force Base closed Sept. 30, 1993. Rantoul real estate agents were selling 150 homes a year at a market value that is similar to what it is today. But he believes the real estate market in Rantoul has hit rock bottom and is on its way back.

“The rest of Champaign County never felt the real estate collapse that Rantoul did when the base closed,” Crane said.

He said real estate sales in Rantoul got so bad after the base closed he had to take a job in Rosemont to make a living, noting his family went through a lot of financial hardships during that time.

“I can remember my dad sitting on our front porch at the time the base closed. He was in his 80s, saying what they ought to do is return Chanute to the farm land it once was,” Crane said. “I thought he was crazy, but there are times over the years I thought my dad was wiser than I gave him credit for.”

But he said Rantoul is rebounding. From Oct. 24, 2011, to a year later, Rantoul saw 77 homes sell. During that same period this year, 108 have sold.

“That’s the first time that’s happened in the last 20 years,” Crane said of the increase, noting he’s been in business since 1975

“This deal with Easton-Bell is the biggest thing to happen since the Chanute closing. It’s huge.”

He said Rantoul has a great work force, and companies are realizing they need to take advantage of that.

“I was told one of the reasons Easton-Bell located in Rantoul was because of their employees. That’s one of the strengths of our community,” Crane said.

Crane, who also serves as a township assessor and real estate appraiser, said Rantoul has turned the corner, noting “the bottom has been reached.”

“It’s been a long, hard ride, but we’re back,” Crane said.

He said a lot of the problem with real estate in the community was an excess of housing. Six years ago, for example, 40 percent of the community had REO (real estate owned by lenders) housing, distressed sales or foreclosed properties. Today, that number is below 30 percent. The village has helped that issue by condemning and razing properties, destroying dozens of units in the past year.

Today, Rantoul has some of the most reasonably priced homes in the county, Crane said. He noted  buyers will pay $70,000 for a nice home in Rantoul compared to well more than $100,000 in Champaign.

“We’re selling homes 30-40 percent lower than in Champaign,” he said.

Although home values aren’t rising, he said, they’ve finally become stable.

Crane also said Rantoul has a lot more non-owner-occupied units than owner-occupied units, noting although that’s not always a bad thing, it’s different from other communities.

He said the village isn’t without challenges and said the biggest misconception is the “perception of our school system,” noting local schools can compete with any school in the area as far as educational values.

Crane said his grandchildren attend both public and private schools in Rantoul and called St. Malachy School, which educates through eighth grade, “a secret jewel.”

He said when the base was open, Rantoul’s was nationally renowned as one of the best school systems anywhere, but said that image changed when the base closed.

“The challenge is to overcome that perception,” Crane said.

He said the village is on the right track by eliminating low-income housing and decaying buildings. “This town looks better today than it’s looked in years,” he said,

Not only is Rantoul seeing commercial development along U.S 136, it’s also seeing development around the new Wal-Mart on the west end of town.

“Be thankful for people like (commercial real estate developer) Joe Warner. He had the vision to do something no one else could do,” Crane said, talking about the commercial changes happening just south of the Wal-Mart complex that will include a new motel, possibly restaurants and other commercial businesses.

He also credited Village Administrator Bruce Sandahl.

“He’s the best thing to ever happen to this village,” Crane said. “He’s been a big part of our recovery.”

He said one of the most positive statements he can make as a real estate agent concerns Rantoul’s infrastructure, noting parks and recreation are a huge asset to the community, with two golf courses, the aquatic center, The Forum Fitness Center and summer sports programs that host more than 1,000 youngsters

“My mom used to sing a song to us – Count your blessings. Count them one by one,” Crane said. “It’s time Rantoul residents take a look and count their blessings.

Those that are living here have gotta start speaking of life and not death. I was as guilty as anyone. I’m thankful for the people who have stuck it out. It’s time we realized Rantoul is a great town.”

tevans@news-gazette.com



 

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