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Regional Spotlight—Illinois recorded an eighth consecutive month of year-over-year increases in home sales, according to data released today by the Illinois Association of REALTORS®.

Statewide home sales (including single-family homes and condominiums) in February 2012 totaled 6,487 homes sold, up 15.1 percent from 5,634 home sales in February 2011. The statewide median price in February was $117,000, down 8.2 percent from $127,500 in February 2011. The median is a typical market price where half the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

In terms of sales, the numbers were the best for February since 2008 when 7,058 homes were sold, and they mark three years’ of sales growth coming out of the recession. According to the association’s records, 5,243 homes were sold in 2009, 6,194 in 2010 and 5,634 in 2011.

Several factors contributed to the sales increase, including expedited movement of foreclosed properties through the legal system, interest rates hovering at historic lows and prices that are seen by many consumers as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“People seem to be feeling better about where the economy is going,” says Loretta Alonzo, CRB, GRI, president of the Illinois Association of REALTORS® and Broker/Owner of Century 21 Alonzo & Associates in La Grange Park. “When you have interest rates and housing prices this low homebuyers are highly motivated to get back into the market.”

The monthly average commitment rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage for the North Central region was 3.91 percent in February 2012, down from 3.92 percent during the previous month, according to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. Last year in February it averaged 5.0 percent.

In the nine-county Chicago Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area (PMSA), home sales (single family and condominiums) in February 2012 totaled 4,325 homes sold, up 14.8 percent from February 2011 sales of 3,769 homes. The median price in February 2012 was $135,000 in the Chicago PMSA, down 11.5 percent compared to last year in February when it was $152,500.

Dr. Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory (REAL) of the University of Illinois, said the mild winter is helping the housing market move upward. The Illinois and Chicago PMSA Pending Home Sales Indices surged in the first two months in 2012. This spring surge is typical in a cyclical housing market with activity levels high when the weather warms. However, this year’s spring surge is stronger and came earlier than last year, according to Hewings.

“The other good sign is from the labor market. Last month, the U.S. unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.3 percent and the nonfarm payroll employment rose by 227,000. According to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s survey of consumers, consumer’s confidence level is high and this high confidence level is due to a record number of consumers that were aware of ongoing increases in jobs,” Hewings says.

“For Illinois, the most relevant factor would be a surge in job creation and the state’s economy has been showing consistent signs of life in the last 12 months. For most of 2011, Illinois’ job growth kept pace with the nation, whereas for much of the previous two decades the job growth hovered at rates between one third and one half the national levels.”

More than half of Illinois counties reporting (49 of 96) showed year-over-year home sales increases in February 2012. Thirty-nine (39) counties showed year-over-year median price increases including Champaign, up 7.1 percent to $135,000; Henry, up 13.3 percent to $65,000; Jefferson, up 4.5 percent to $64,500; Kankakee, up 28.3 percent to $115,500; Kendall, up 6.1 percent to $159,000; LaSalle, up 1.5 percent to $69,500; Peoria, up 8.4 percent to $108,950; Rock Island, up 16.1 percent to $90,000; and Saint Clair, up 21.9 percent to $115,000.

In the city of Chicago, February 2012 home sales (single family and condominiums) totaled 1,079, up 2.2 percent from 1,056 homes sold in February 2011. The city of Chicago median home sale price for February 2012 was $140,000, down 6.7 percent compared to February 2011 when it was $150,000.

“A mild Chicago February continues to prove positive for the city’s housing market,” says REALTOR® Bob Floss, president of the Chicago Association of REALTORS® and Broker/Owner of Bob Floss and Son Realty. “Sellers and buyers are closely watching opportunities to make the move right for them in this economy. While sellers are motivated to close on their homes, they are also strategic in looking for ways to make opportune investments in the purchase of their next home, garnering them more value for their dollar. First-time homebuyers are equally measured, looking for distressed or right-priced traditional purchases of homes to help make their investment dreams a reality.”

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