CHAMPAIGN — March home sales were strong in Champaign County, compared with the same month a year ago.
But home prices haven't increased substantially, according to statistics from the Champaign County Association of Realtors' Multiple Listing Service.
The association said 174 single-family homes were sold in March, up from 146 a year earlier — an increase of 19 percent.
Those homes sold for a collective $26.5 million, up from the $21.4 million in home sales in March 2011.
The March figures contributed to what already was "an exceptionally strong start" to the year, said association President Matt Difanis.
Mild weather helped bring out buyers, he said. But pending sales in March also ran ahead of last year — a good sign for months to come.
Prices remained fairly stable. The average sales price — $152,367 — was up 3.8 percent from last March, while the median sales price —$130,000 — was unchanged from last year.
The median price is the point at which half the homes sell for more and half the homes sell for less.
The fact that the average price went up while the median price stayed the same means more high-end homes are selling.
But sellers shouldn't assume a major price rebound is in the works, said Difanis, a co-owner of Re/Max Realty Associates in Champaign.
"Despite having now seen modest increases in median and average selling prices year-to-date (in each case, less than 2 percent), sellers need to remain realistic," he said.
They need to keep their listing prices competitive with "the still-plentiful inventory" of other listings vying for buyers' attention, he said.
Sales trends varied greatly throughout the Multiple Listing Service area, which includes not only Champaign County but also parts of Piatt and Douglas counties.
Sales were tremendously strong in the Mahomet and Monticello areas during March, Difanis said.
In that "western" region, the number of homes sold in March was up 84 percent from a year ago — with 35 homes sold this year, compared with 19 last year.
The collective price of those homes was $7.73 million — more than double the $3.53 million in sales from March 2011.
High-end homes helped boost overall sales volume in that area. The average sales price in the western region during March was $220,724, up from $185,677 last year. The median sales price was also up — $175,000, up from $171,500.
Here are trends for other parts of the Multiple Listing Service area:
— In the Champaign and Savoy area, unit sales were up 19 percent from last March, but the average sales price was down 5 percent.
— In the Urbana area, unit sales were up 11 percent, and the average sales price was up 2 percent.
— In the southern area that includes Tolono and Tuscola, unit sales were up 83 percent, but the average sale price was down 9 percent.
— In the northern area that includes Rantoul, unit sales were down 42 percent, and the average sales price was down 18 percent.
— In the eastern area that includes St. Joseph and Ogden, unit sales were down 36 percent, and the average sale price was down 29 percent.
Percentages for the outlying regions are subject to large monthly swings, due to the relatively small number of sales.