Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Statewide February Home Sales Perk Up from January

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Home sales activity improved slightly from January as Illinois REALTORS gear up for the spring market. According to the Illinois Association of REALTORS latest report, total home sales (which include single-family and condominiums) were up 15.1 percent in February 2008 to 6,832 sales compared to January 2008 sales of 5,938; sales were down 22.9 percent from February 2007 totals of 8,860. The Illinois median price in February was $181,265, down 5.6 percent from $192,000 in February 2007. The median is a typical market price where half the homes sold for more, half sold for less.

“REALTORS are seeing some signs of the spring market with increased activity and interest from potential buyers. If people have good credit, their finances in order, and are looking for a home for the long haul, they should get in the market with confidence,” said REALTOR Kay Wirth, president of the Illinois Association of REALTORS. “Conditions in many local markets are good and present opportunities for first-time and move-up buyers.”

In the city of Chicago condominium sales fared comparatively well in February with 1,047 units sold, down just 9.7 percent from the same month last year with 1,160 units sold. The condo median price in the city of Chicago was up 10.5 percent to $314,900 from February 2007.

“In the city of Chicago condominium transactions continue to lead our sales activity,” said David Hanna, president-elect of the Chicago Association of REALTORS. “The 10.5 percent increase in the median price for February shows buyers are finding great value in the city. We see this increase as further proof of the resilience of the Chicago marketplace, and expect the smart buyer here to prosper from taking advantage of historical low interest rates and abundant inventory to find their next home.”

The monthly average commitment rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage for the North Central region was 5.99 percent in February 2008, up 0.26 points from the 5.73 average rate the previous month, according to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. Last year in February it averaged 6.25 percent.

“There are pockets in the state that are already seeing an early uptick in sales activity,” says Wirth, a broker with Re/Max Unlimited Northwest in Crystal Lake. “McLean County which covers the Bloomington-Normal area saw sales up 14.4 percent and the median price up 1.3 percent to $153,000. Sales activity in Macon County (Decatur) was up 2.7 percent, and in the Metro East county of Madison sales surged 6.3 percent in February compared to a year ago.”

The Chicagoland Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area (PMSA) logged 4,310 total home sales in February 2008, down 26.9 percent from 5,894 home sales in the same month of 2007. The median home sale price for the Chicagoland PMSA was $240,230 in February 2008, up 0.1 percent from $240,000 in February 2007. The Chicagoland PMSA, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, includes the counties of Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will.

“Illinois is certainly revealing, through both jobs growth and state revenue collections, that it is bucking the national trend in the first quarter of the year,” said Dr. Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory (REAL) of the University of Illinois. “The spillover of the economic forces into the real estate market is evident in the slowing in the decline in housing sales and recovery of median prices to levels that approach those observed in the first quarter of 2007.”

According to a recent report from the National Association of REALTORS, chief economist Lawrence Yun said: “Subprime loans and other risky mortgage products have virtually disappeared from the marketplace, and over the past five months, this has been reflected in soft but fairly stable home sales.” Sales and price information is generated from a survey of Multiple Listing Service sales reported by 35 participating Illinois REALTOR local boards and associations.