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Metro home sales, median prices show gains in March

March home sales paint a picture of steady progress in the housing segment of the seven-county metropolitan Chicago real estate market, according to an analysis by Re/Max. The number of homes changing hands increased 18 percent, and the median price of a home sold last month climbed 1 percent when compared to March 2012.

In its analysis of home sales reported by Midwest Real Estate Data LLC, the regional multiple listing service, Re/Max found that as of April 9, home sales reported for the month of March totaled 7,793 units, up from 6,591 a year ago. The median sales price advanced to $155,000, up from $153,800 a year earlier. 

The Re/Max analysis also found that a shrinking inventory of homes for sale continues to be a major factor in boosting the housing market. The Chicago-area home inventory at the end of March was 50 percent lower than it had been 12 months earlier. The relative scarcity of homes seemed to help buyers speed up their decision making process, as the average market time for a home sold in March fell from 178 days a year ago to 136 days this year. That is the lowest figure for March since 2007 when the average was 135 days. Average market time is the average number of days a home sold during the month spent on the market before a sales contract was signed.

Sales activity rose in six of the seven counties during March when compared to activity levels of March 2012. The improvement was led by a robust increase of 50 percent in Kendall County and gains of 28 percent in McHenry County and 25 percent in Lake County. Cook and DuPage counties, with gains of 21 and 17 percent, respectively, also had strong results, while in Chicago, sales increased 15 percent. Cook County, which includes Chicago, accounted for 58 percent of all sales in the metro area during March.

Sales activity rose 5 percent in Kane County and fell 5 percent in Will County.

The median home sales price climbed in four of the seven counties and Chicago, as Kendall County again led the way, posting a 22 percent price increase, a turnaround from the prior month when Kendall was the only metro county to post a year-over-year decline in median price. Another significant gain in median price came in Will County, where the increase was 13 percent. A 9 percent gain in the median home price in Chicago contrasted with an increase of less than 1 percent in Cook County as a whole, underscoring the relative strength of the city market.

Elsewhere, the median price rose 6 percent in Kane County but dipped 2 percent in McHenry County, 1 percent in Lake County and 4 percent in DuPage County.

Sales of distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) accounted for 43 percent of all March home sales, down from 49 percent in February and 46 percent in March of last year. 

Detached homes

Sales of detached homes climbed 17 percent in March to 4,881 units, compared to 4,179 homes sold in March of last year. The median sales price rose 4 percent to $175,000, its highest level in the last six months. Average market time continued to shorten, coming in at 135 days compared to 174 days a year earlier.

Both sales activity and the median sales price rose in six of the seven metro counties, as well as in Chicago. Unit sales jumped 85 percent in Kendall County, where 131 homes changed hands. Elsewhere, March sales rose 22 percent in Lake County, 21 percent in McHenry County, 20 percent in Cook County, 13 percent in DuPage County and 6 percent in Kane County, but fell 5 percent in Will County. Sales in Chicago rose 14 percent.

The only county without an increase in median price was Cook, where the median remained unchanged from March 2012 at $150,100. Otherwise, the results were as follows: Will up 13 percent to $192,000, Kendall up 12 percent to $194,500, Lake up 7 percent to $195,000, DuPage up 3 percent to $251,100, McHenry up 2 percent to $160,000 and Kane up 1 percent to $166,500. In Chicago, the median price of a detached home climbed 7 percent to $135,900.

Attached homes

Results in the attached-home segment of the metro Chicago real estate market were more uneven in March. Sales volume registered a strong gain, with 2,912 units changing hands, an increase of 21 percent from March of last year. The pace of sales also rose, with the average market time falling to 140 days from 185 days last year. The median price climbed 0.1 percent to $125,000.     

Sales volume for attached homes climbed in six of the seven metro counties, with McHenry and Lake counties leading the way. Sales rose 65 percent in McHenry and 34 percent in Lake, as well as 24 percent in DuPage and 22 percent in Cook. Sales also rose 6 percent in Kendall and 2 percent in Kane, while in Chicago, attached sales climbed 16 percent.  The only decrease in sales activity was a 5 percent dip in Will County.

Changes in the median price varied widely, with declines common. Only in Will County, where the median rose 21 percent to $120,000, and in Chicago, where the gain was 9 percent to $231,750, were increases recorded.   

The median price in the six other metro counties fell anywhere from 0.3 percent to 13 percent. The results were as follows: Cook down 0.3 percent to $143,000, DuPage down 6 percent to $109,100, Kane down 8 percent to $103,000, Kendall down 4 percent to $90,000, Lake down 13 percent to $100,000 and McHenry down 13 percent to $82,500.

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