Real Estate News: Rockford Area Realtors hit five-year high in January sales

Staff Report

Following a national and local surge in employment in January, the Rockford housing market also experienced a significant gain.

Rockford Area Realtors (RAR) sold 216 homes in January, the highest total for the month of January since the housing recession began five years ago, when 351 properties were sold in 2007. Sales this January jumped an astonishing 35 percent from 160 home sales in January 2010.

January also marked the eighth straight month of year-to-year increases. The last such sales streak occurred more than a decade ago, ending in October 2001.

A combination of unseasonably mild weather, historically low mortgage rate and attractive market pricing led to an eighth straight month of increases in home sales,” said Steve Bois, CEO of RAR.

RAR’s latest report shows market-wide home sale prices fell 3.8 percent from a three-month rolling average price of $98,076 in December to $94,371 in January, the lowest monthly average price since the housing recession started in 2007.

However, when bank foreclosures and property short sales (a home sold for less than the current amount owed to the lender) were discounted, the average sale price rose to $117,146.

While home prices continue to be a concern, largely due to the continuing effect foreclosures and short sales are having on the market,” Bois said, “the continued trend of month-over-month increases in the number of home sales is really encouraging news. Buyers are finding deals that are simply too good to pass up, and coupled with stronger consumer optimism, this is making an excellent way to start 2012.”

The monthly average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage Feb. 2 fell to 3.87 percent, down from 3.98 percent the week of Jan. 26, according to Freddie Mac. These are the lowest mortgage rates in Freddie Mac records dating to 1971.

For consumers looking at the big picture, especially first-time homebuyers, now is the time to get a new mortgage,” Bois said. “If you are able to qualify for a mortgage and have job security, it means now is a great time to buy a home.”

Housing market forecasts for first quarter 2012 for Illinois by the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory (REAL) of the University of Illinois and other January housing statistics suggest sales in the first quarter of this year will be significantly higher than the same period last year, although prices will still be lower than a year ago.

Upward trending January statistics including strong sales pending for February, a drop in housing inventory to 2007 levels, an increase of up to 15 percent in showings reported by Realtors and a significantly higher number of unique users on the association’s website (levels usually seen in the higher-selling spring market).

In a long-awaited wave of hiring, companies added 243,000 jobs nationally in January.

Locally, Chrysler announced the creation of 1,800 upcoming jobs being added to a third shift, some 200 more than expected, as the Belvidere plant begins production of the new Dodge Dart.

From the Feb. 15-21, 2012, issue

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