March home sales drop a bit from '12

March home sales drop a bit from '12

CHAMPAIGN — Wintry weather and a low inventory of houses on the market helped push down March home sales, the Champaign County Association of Realtors said.

The association's Multiple Listing Service reported 160 sales of homes in March, down from 179 in March 2012.

A snowstorm late in the month may have kept some buyers away, and tightened inventory may have been another factor.

"Some buyers are not satisfied with inventory on the market and are waiting for more move-up buyers to list, to improve their prospects of home selection," association President Todd Salen said.

"We anticipate supply should rise through the spring, as is typical during this seasonal pattern," he said in a release.

During the first three months of 2013, the number of homes sold — 393 — ran ahead of the 377 sold in the first three months of 2012.

But the dollar value of this year's sales — $24.1 million — lagged behind the $27.6 million sold during the same months in 2012.

Nevertheless, Salen said real estate agents are seeing cases of homes getting multiple offers shortly after being listed.

"We may see tighter supplies driving more price appreciation this spring," said Salen, a broker with Sperry Van Ness/Ramshaw Real Estate in Champaign.

The median sales price for homes in the Champaign County area was $132,500, down from $134,900 a year earlier.

Forty percent of the homes sold in Champaign County and surrounding areas during March were priced between $100,000 and $200,000.

In a promising sign for April, pending sales in March were up from a year earlier — with 262 sales agreements that had not closed, compared with 237 in March 2012.

Certain areas of the county saw differences in March sales. In Champaign and Savoy, sales were up 7 percent from a year ago, but sales in Urbana were 19 percent lower than in March 2012.

Salen predicted that first-time buyers could be "the wild card" for the spring buying season.

"As long as inflation stays in check, mortgage rates remain low, employment conditions improve and consumer confidence continues to rise, we should see ongoing gradual improvement in the housing market, which will translate to other industries," he said.

The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. (Freddie Mac) has predicted this spring will be the strongest spring for home buying since 2007.

In its housing market outlook for March, the agency said, "Nationwide home sales are expected to be up 8 to 10 percent for 2013. Housing starts are expected to increase to 950,000 units for 2013, compared to 780,000 in 2012."

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