Housing market gaining strength in Champaign County

CHAMPAIGN — Rising home sales, higher prices and shorter time on the market all point to a strengthening housing market in Champaign County.

Statistics released Tuesday by the Champaign County Association of Realtors' Multiple Listing Service showed November home sales were up 38 percent from a year ago.

The association said 174 single-family homes sold in November, compared with 126 sales in November 2011.

During the first 11 months of this year, 2,232 home sales were closed, up from 1,826 for the comparable period in 2011. That's a 22 percent increase.

The dollar volume of those sales was also up — $356.7 million, up from $279.4 million in 2011.

"We are seeing a consistent and steady return to normalcy in our market," said Todd Salen, the association's president, in a release. "Strong growth in sales activity is removing excess inventory in the market."

Homes priced below $200,000 accounted for 72 percent of the market in November, said Salen, a broker with Sperry Van Ness/Ramshaw Real Estate in Champaign.

"We are seeing homes in lower-priced categories moving rather quickly," he said. "Some sellers are receiving multiple offers due to shrinking inventory."

The median home sales price in November was $140,000, up from $126,450 in November 2011.

Salen said that in November, the typical home for sale had been on the market for 98 days, down from 128 days a year earlier.

Pending sales continue to run ahead of a year ago. In November, the number of pending sales — active listings under contract that are awaiting closing — was up 23 percent from the same time last year. Those sales generally close within 30 to 60 days.

Salen credited low interest rates and stable employment for fueling home sales.

"The stability of employment in the Champaign area has played a huge role in the housing recovery," he said.

The average rate on a fixed-rate mortgage in November was 3.33 percent in the nation's North Central region, according to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. A year earlier, the average rate was 4 percent.

The association's Multiple Listing Service covers Champaign County and parts of Piatt and Douglas counties. All regions within that area saw sales increases in November.

Sales in the Champaign-Savoy and Monticello-Mahomet regions have been strong much of the year. But other parts of the area showed new strength in November.

The Urbana region had 39 home sales in November, up from 17 a year earlier. The St. Joseph-Ogden region had 15 sales, up from four a year earlier.

Sales were up 20 percent in the Tuscola-Tolono region and up more than 7 percent in the Rantoul region.

Salen said housing affordability seems likely to remain good through 2013, barring any major stumbles in economic growth.

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