Home sales, prices up in February from year earlier

CHAMPAIGN — February home sales in the Champaign County area were up 13.5 percent from a year earlier, the Champaign County Association of Realtors reported.

The association's Multiple Listing Service said 109 single-family homes were sold in February, up from 96 homes in February 2012.

There are signs March may prove relatively strong. There were 199 pending sales in February, up from 196 pending sales in February 2012. Those were sales transactions that hadn't closed at month's end.

"The improving performance of the housing market will continue as interest rates remain relatively stable, and there is sustainable job growth, advances in consumer confidence and inflation remains in check," said association President Todd Salen in a release.

Salen, a broker with Sperry Van Ness/Ramshaw Real Estate in Champaign, said the area has seen an uptick in home construction, thanks to a moderate winter.

Sales typically accelerate in springtime, he said.

"Homeowners who may have been sitting on the sidelines waiting to move up should consider listing their home as we are entering the peak spring buying season," he said.

For sellers, there was good news on the price front in February. The average sales price for homes in the Champaign area was $145,206 in February, up from $136,533 a year earlier.

The median sales price was $132,000 in February, up from $118,500 a year earlier. The median price is the point at which half the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

Geoffrey Hewings, director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois, recently told association members that several factors should help fuel the housing market in 2013.

Those factors include historically low interest rates, an enhanced inventory of homes on the market and the accelerating cost of renting.

But in the association's release, Hewings said Illinois could use more jobs.

Current employment levels in Illinois match those of the late 1990s, but several sectors — manufacturing, information, construction, transportation and utilities, financial activities — are below those of 1990, he said in the release.

"Among some of the challenges the state is facing is loss of jobs, loss of people in terms of outmigration, loss of expenditure and loss of business expansion within the state," he said.

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