CHAMPAIGN — June home sales in the Champaign County area ran far ahead of June 2011, and certain types of homes aren't staying on the market long.
"Anything affordable in Mahomet has sold in an instant this year," said Matt Difanis, president of the Champaign County Association of Realtors. That includes homes in the $125,000 to $200,000 range, he said.
Also selling well: centrally located historic homes in the Champaign-Urbana area that are in very good condition.
"The combination of location and historic charm has great appeal," Difanis said.
In June, 330 single-family homes sold in the Champaign County area, up from 260 a year earlier.
That resulted in sales volume of $56.8 million, up 47 percent from a year earlier.
Helping to fuel the surge were sales of high-end homes.
"Home sales of $300,000 or more were up 65.5 percent year-to-date," Difanis said.
Ninety-six homes sold for $300,000 or more during the first six months of 2012, compared with 58 during the same period last year.
In June, the difference was even more dramatic. Twenty-nine homes sold in that price range, compared with 12 a year ago — a 142 percent increase.
"High-income buyers were the first to sit on the sidelines when they thought the market may continue to tumble," Difanis said.
But the "stratospheric" rise in high-end sales indicates house hunters now believe it's the time to buy, he said.
Sales activity tends to be particularly strong in Champaign-Urbana and regions to the west and south. But regions to the east and north didn't keep pace with last year's sales, in terms of units or volume.
Difanis said housing inventory remains plentiful, compared with the peak demand years of 2005 and 2006. The number of available homes is about double what it was then, he said.
The average sales price in June was $172,212, up from $147,882 a year earlier. The median price — the point at which half the homes sell for more and half the homes sell for less — was $155,500, up from $137,950 a year earlier.
Difanis, a co-owner of Re/Max Realty Associates in Champaign, cautioned homeowners that home values are not surging, so when they put their homes on the market, they shouldn't overprice them.
"While median price is up, homeowners need to understand this is because high-end home sales comprise a larger share of this year's closed sales," he said.
"This pushes the median selling price up, even while values remain flat, so current homeowners contemplating a move need to remain realistic about their pricing," he said.
When asked why home sales remain strong while overall consumer spending has cooled, Difanis said he thinks interest rates are a key factor.
Today's low interest rates represent "an unprecedented opportunity to lock in savings for 30 years," he said.
Looking ahead, Difanis said pent-up demand eventually will be satisfied, and there will be a decrease in the massive year-over-year sales increases seen this year.
"But if activity flattened out next year, it would still reflect a market that ... is vastly improved over a year or two ago," he said.
"I have personally never been busier, or more productive in terms of sales volume, in my 14 years in the business," he said.