CHAMPAIGN — Home sales in the Champaign County area continue to outpace sales from a year ago, according to figures from the Champaign County Association of Realtors.
The association's Multiple Listing Service said 173 homes were sold in March, up from 160 homes in March 2013.
That amounted to $24.16 million in sales, up less than 1 percent from sales in March 2013.
"All price ranges are getting more activity," said association President Phil Trautman. "I've got houses listed from $20,000 to $400,000, and they're getting shown multiple times weekly.
"We're not really seeing bidding wars yet," he added, but houses repossessed by banks have been drawing multiple offers.
For the first three months of this year, 427 homes sold, up from 393 during the first three months of 2013.
The first-quarter sales volume of $64.18 million was up 13 percent from the same period in 2013.
Indications are that, at least for the next few months, sales will continue to run ahead of a year ago. The association reported 288 pending sales in March, up from 252 pending sales a year earlier.
Pending sales are transactions that have not closed but are expected to in the next 30 to 60 days.
Although sales were up in March, the median home sale price was down.
The median price — the point at which half the sales are for more and half are for less — was $122,500 in March, down 7.5 percent from $132,500 a year earlier.
Trautman, the managing broker-owner of Champaign County Realty, said the median price was pushed down by investors buying up lower-price properties as rental housing.
The inventory of listed homes stands at about 1,400, which he said is "right in line with where we usually are this time of year."
"I think the market is going to take off," he added. "Interest rates are holding stable, with a slight increase. Buyers are getting active after a long, hard winter. They're eager to get out there and do something."
Trautman said the Champaign area enjoyed year-over-year sales gains throughout the winter months — something other parts of the state did not see.
Some of the interest in buying stemmed from rising interest rates, he said. Prospective buyers realize the longer they delay, the less they may be able to afford.
The average rate for a fixed-rate mortgage in the North Central region of the U.S. was 4.36 percent in March, up from 4.32 percent in February, according to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.
The association's Multiple Listing Service includes properties in Champaign County and parts of Piatt, Douglas and Vermilion counties.
Trautman noted that Gov. Pat Quinn recently announced formation of the Welcome Home Illinois mortgage program for first-time buyers and those who haven't owned a home in the last three years.
The program provides $7,500 in down-payment assistance with interest rates as low as 3.99 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.
Buyers must contribute $1,000 or 1 percent of the purchase price, whichever is greater. In Champaign and surrounding counties, participants can have up to $72,100 in household income for households of one or two people and up to $82,915 for households of three or more.