Champaign County home sales enjoyed another strong month in May, with the number of sales surging 26 percent from the previous May.
Figures from the Champaign County Association of Realtors indicate 260 home sales closed in May, up from 206 a year earlier.
The value of those sales was $40.9 million, up from $30.6 million a year ago — an increase of 34 percent.
The strong month was a continuation of an overall robust year for home sales. For the first five months of the year, Champaign County home sales climbed 17 percent from a year ago, and the value of those sales was up 25 percent.
But the boom wasn't felt in all parts of the county. Home sales in Urbana, for example, were down from a year ago, and so were sales in the eastern part of the county, which includes St. Joseph.
The Champaign-Savoy region has been one of the strongest areas, with May home sales up 71 percent from a year ago and the value of those sales up 62 percent.
For the first five months of this year, sales in the Champaign-Savoy region were up 38 percent.
In Savoy, 42 home sales closed in the first five months of 2012, up from 24 during the same time last year.
The increase there reflected "a major spike in demand for new construction," said Matt Difanis, president of the Champaign County Association of Realtors.
"Five months ago, builders were making unprecedented concessions to move persistent unsold spec-house inventory in Savoy," he said.
Now, "home builders are struggling to build fast enough to keep up with robust demand — both spec homes and pre-solds," said Difanis, the co-owner of Re/Max Realty Associates in Champaign.
Bill Peifer of Signature Development said the market in Savoy was pretty flat until February and March. At that point, sales perked up, and Peifer at first attributed the bump to a mild winter. But he saw ongoing demand this spring.
In the Champaign County market, Signature sold more homes during the first four months of this year than it did in all of 2011, Peifer said.
Peifer credited the upturn in demand partly to prospective buyers being able to sell their homes easier and partly to buyers feeling more secure about the economy.
Also posting strong sales: the western region that includes Mahomet. Sales there were up 16 percent in May, and the value of those sales swelled by 52 percent.
For the first five months of the year, sales volume in that region was up 50 percent, and the median sales price rose 6 percent due to more "high-end" activity, Difanis said.
In the northern region that includes Rantoul, home sales were up in May, and so were average and median sales prices.
That's encouraging, Difanis said, because that region has been "dominated by low-priced sales, including many short sales and foreclosures."
The region's median sales price for the first five months of this year was up 14 percent from the same time last year.
Difanis attributed the increase to "decreasing distressed-property sales, which tend to be very low-priced housing units."
"This bodes well for a long-awaited housing recovery in Rantoul," he added.
Even so, there's a ways to go. For the first five months of this year, sales for that region were down 17 percent from the same period last year — and the value of those sales was down by 15 percent.
Marketwide figures cited are for single-family homes in the association's Multiple Listing Service area. That area includes Champaign County and parts of Piatt and Douglas counties.
Within the Champaign County market, the housing inventory remains historically high, and mortgage rates hit an all-time low this month. Difanis said.
That combination makes for "extraordinarily favorable" conditions for those looking to buy, he said.
Prices moving up
Home prices in the Champaign County area are moving up, according to statistics from the Multiple Listing Service.
The average sales price in May was $157,197, up 6 percent from a year ago.
Meanwhile, the median sales price — the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less — was $136,250, up 1 percent from the previous May.
Here are the May average and median sales prices for various regions covered by the Multiple Listing Service: