CHAMPAIGN — Home sales in the Champaign County area were slightly lower last year than in 2010. But the median and average selling price were nearly unchanged from a year earlier.
Matt Difanis, president of the Champaign County Association of Realtors, said he sees "strong evidence that the market has stabilized pricewise."
Last year the average selling price was $152,261, down 1 percent from $153,812 in 2010.
Meanwhile, the median sales price — the point at which half the prices are higher and half are lower — was $136,000, down 0.36 percent from $136,500 in 2010.
That's a big difference from home sales statewide, where the median price fell 9.2 percent from 2010.
The number of homes sold in the Champaign County area during 2011 was 1,966, down 3 percent from 2010, Difanis said.
Those figures — compiled by the association's Multiple Listing Service — exclude out-of-area homes sometimes included in the data, he said.
The sales volume in dollars was $299.3 million in 2011, down 4 percent from 2010.
However, home sales trends differed drastically within the area, according to Difanis.
— In the area that includes Champaign and Savoy, for instance, units sold were down 12.1 percent and sales volume in dollars was down 7.6 percent. But the average selling price was up 5.2 percent and the median selling price was up 4.4 percent.
— In Urbana, units sold were down 1.2 percent and sales volume in dollars was down 5.5 percent. The average selling price was down 4.3 percent and the median price was unchanged.
— In the western region including Mahomet and Monticello, units sold were up 14.4 percent, and sales volume in dollars was up 3.3 percent. But the average sales price was down 9.7 percent and the median sales price was down 10.7 percent.
Difanis said he feels optimistic about 2012, though it's too early in the year to quantify an upturn.
He said the biggest ingredients needed for a turnaround are restoration of consumer confidence and a public awareness of how affordable homes are, due to low interest rates.
With some 30-year mortgage rates below 4 percent, "it's like a 360-month stimulus plan" for those taking out mortgages, he said.
He also suggested current homeowners consider refinancing their mortgages, "even if their home has gone down in value and their equity position has eroded."
Difanis said the percentage of distressed properties in the Champaign County area is much lower than the percentages seen by agents in many other parts of Illinois, particularly metropolitan Chicago.
In January, the Illinois Association of Realtors reported that home sales in December were up 14 percent from a year earlier. It was the sixth straight month of sales increases.
For full-year 2011, however, the number of homes sold in Illinois was down 0.1 percent from 2010.
University of Illinois Professor Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, who does economic projections for the association, said he sees signs of economic improvement, but the Illinois housing market continues to be dragged down by unresolved foreclosures.
In a release issued by the association, Hewings projected that sales volume in January, February and March will be "significantly higher," even though prices will remain lower than a year ago.