CHAMPAIGN — January home sales in the Champaign County area were down slightly from a year ago, but pending sales are up sharply — a good sign of sales in months to come.
Pending listings — properties under contract and awaiting closing — were up 34 percent from January 2011, according to the Champaign County Association of Realtors' Multiple Listing Service.
"Nearly all of those pending sales will turn into closed units in the next 30 to 90 days," association President Matt Difanis said.
"Given that most of those will be closing in what would generally be considered 'pre-season' for buyers, I consider this a very positive sign for our market," he said.
The association reported last week that 91 home sales were closed in January, down from 97 a year earlier — a drop of about 6 percent.
But 149 sales were pending, compared with only 111 pending sales during January 2011.
Difanis, the co-owner of Re/Max Realty Associates in Champaign, said buyers and sellers shouldn't expect "a roaring price recovery" this year.
But the statistics send "a very strong message to any potential buyers who have been sitting on the fence, wanting some evidence that stability has returned to the market," he said.
Both the average and median sales price in this market were up slightly in January.
The average sales price was $151,810, up 0.45 percent from a year ago.
The median sales price — the point at which half the homes sell for more and half the homes sell for less — was $142,500, up 0.7 percent from a year ago.
Pricing appears to have stabilized and even started to rebound, Difanis said, adding many areas of the country would be envious of Champaign County's stable prices.
In January, the average time a house in this area was on the market was 107 days, down slightly from January 2011, when the average time was 111 days.
The association's Multiple Listing Service covers Champaign, Piatt and Ford counties, along with portions of Douglas and Vermilion counties.
Last week, the Illinois Association of Realtors reported that fourth-quarter home sales in the state were up 14.8 percent from a year earlier.
But the median price statewide was $128,000, down 10.8 percent from $143,500 in the fourth quarter of 2010.
Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois, said he expects year-over-year sales gains in Illinois through the first quarter of this year.
"While we are seeing the time on market for homes decline to less than 10 months (statewide), the large foreclosure inventory could create some challenges in the housing market this year," Hewings stated in a release from the state association.