For the first time since monthly statistics have been collected dating back to 1998, the Rockford housing market has gained year-to-year increases for the ninth straight month. The longest previous sales streak ran for eight months ending in October 2001.
Rockford Area Realtors (RAR) sold 213 homes in February, the highest total for the month of February in four years and 23.1 percent higher than 173 properties sold in 2011.
“What’s truly eye-popping is the historical perspective,” said Steve Bois, CEO of RAR. “This is the first recorded string of nine months of sales increases over the previous year. Sales are definitely picking up — good news for both buyers and sellers.”
The three-month rolling average price also increased, from $94,371 in January to $100,381 in February, a 6.4 percent gain. The increase in average sales price was somewhat boosted by a higher-than-average number of sales of higher-end properties.
When bank foreclosures and property short sales (a home sold for less than the current amount owed to the lender) are discounted, the average sale price rose to an impressive $140,717, some 20 percent higher than last month’s average sales price of $117,146 without foreclosures and short sales.
The U.S economy has been improving steadily for months, Bois said. Industrial output jumped in January after surging in December by the most in five years, with auto sales booming, a significant indicator for the Rockford market.
According to the Regional Economic Applications Laboratory (REAL) at the University of Illinois, the manufacturing sector is leading economic growth in the state, with Illinois adding nearly 100,000 jobs since January 2010. Dr. Geoffrey Hewings with the REAL office said unemployment rates have edged down to 8.5 percent in Illinois, and consumer confidence has reached its highest point in a year. Interest rates are still at historic lows (3.92 percent or lower across the region) and projected to be near that level for several more months.
Bois said Realtors are reporting increased interest among new sellers for listing homes.
“There clearly are more people in the market,” Bois said. “Consumers have made decisions to put off buying for years in some cases, and there’s a sense that this is the time to buy. The combination of significantly lower prices and interest rates isn’t likely to be this attractive again anytime soon.”
From the March 14-20, 2012, issue