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RISMEDIA, January 21, 2011—December 2010 saw home sales in the metropolitan Chicago real estate market record their best result since June when compared to prior year sales activity, according to an analysis by the RE/MAX Northern Illinois real estate network.

December home sales in the seven-county Chicago area totaled 5,175 units, which is 11.3% less than in December 2009. The prior five months had recorded much steeper declines when compared to the same months in 2009. November sales fell 34%, October sales 36.1%, September sales 22.8%, August sales 19.2% and July sales 24.6%.

“I looked at sales data back through 2005, and this is the first time that December home sales in the metro area were stronger in terms of transactions closed than in October of the same year. We believe that is a positive sign, suggesting the recovery of the economy is slowly improving consumer confidence, which is now translating into an increased willingness to buy new homes,” said Jim Merrion, regional director of the RE/MAX Northern Illinois real estate network.

The median price for all homes sold in December was $168,000, 7.7% less than in the prior December and 4% lower than November 2010. The December average price was $250,229, 2.6% higher than in November, but down 0.2% from the prior December.

One reason for the dip in median prices, according to Merrion, was an uptick in the percentage of home sales that involved distressed properties, which are either foreclosures or short sales. Distressed properties accounted for 42.6% of December sales (2,206 units), up from 38.8% in November and 40% in December 2009.

The average time that a home sold in December spent on the market was 163 days, down from 169 days in the prior month, but two days more than in December 2009.

“As has been the case through the entire second half of this year, the performance of the market for detached homes was stronger in December than the market for attached homes, which are primarily condominiums and townhouses,” Merrion said.

“However, the difference between the two segments narrowed substantially in December because we saw a marked improvement in attached home sales, which suggests the condo market is starting to rebound from its post-tax-credit lethargy. Condo sales benefitted significantly from the tax credit and suffered disproportionately after it ended,” Merrion said.

Sales of attached homes in the metro area totaled 1,841 units in December, up 22% from the 1,508 units sold in November and down 12.2% from the sales total in December 2009. That 12.2% year-over-year decline contrasts with comparable declines of 42.6% in November, 42.8% in October and 29% in September. The average market time for attached homes sold in December was 175 days, down from 181 in November and 182 days in October.

The December average price of $240,623 for attached homes was 2.2% less than the year-earlier average of $246,037, while the median price of $145,000 was down 21.6% from the median of $185,000 registered in December 2009.

Sales of detached homes in December totaled 3,334 units, 10.4% higher than the November total, but 10.8% below the level of the prior December. Both the average ($255,533) and median ($182,000) sales prices of detached homes were about 1% higher than they had been a year earlier.

Looking at the seven metropolitan Chicago counties individually reveals a diverse pattern of activity in December.

Sales in all seven counties rose from their November levels, led by Cook County with a 17.5% increase. Gains in the six other counties were as follows: DuPage up 14.4%, Kane up 11.3%, Kendall up 16.8%, Lake up 4.8%, McHenry up 8.7% and Will up 6.6%. Sales in Chicago rose 22.9%, while suburban Cook County recorded an increase of 12.9%.

Total home sales in DuPage, Kane and Kendall Counties registered small gains when compared to December 2009 results. DuPage owed its increase to a 6.1% gain in detached sales, while Kane and Kendall benefitted from increases in sales of attached homes—10% in Kane and 3.4% in Kendall.

The four other counties saw total sales decline from year-earlier levels: 3.4% in Lake, 15.2% in Will, 15.3% in Cook and 17.4% in McHenry. The sales decline in Cook was primarily attributable to a 20% sales decline in the City of Chicago. Sales in suburban Cook were off 11.3%.

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