For the first time since the recession, the metro-east housing market ended a year with more sales than the year before.
It was a slowly improving housing market across the metro-east last year. And that pace is expected to continue in 2013.
With the sales figures in for December 2012, both St. Clair and Madison counties recorded sales increases for total units sold last year over 2011. Up until last year, the local market had been witnessing a gradual decline each year going back to the pre-recession era.
The 2,182 homes sold throughout St. Clair County in 2012 was more than then 1,975 sold in county in 2011.
In Madison County, the 2,658 sales recorded last year was higher than the 2,330 sales from the year before and also more than the 2,495 sales recorded across the county in 2010.
Al Suguitan, president and chief operations officer of the Greater Gateway Association of Realtors in Glen Carbon, said that the gradually improving economy and job market have helped reverse the recent annual sales decline in the metro-east market.
"I think it's no surprise that the economy in 2012 has been slowly, very slowly, growing and at some point it will start registering with folks that although the gross domestic product is not achieving goals, overall we need to have a growing economy," Suguitan said. "It is growing and I think it is encouraging that the numbers have been increasing."
"We are thrilled to report the increases in home sales for the metro-east in 2012," said Connie Stellhorn, president of the Realtor Association of Southwestern Illinois in Belleville, in a released statement. "While the metro-east posted gains in home sales, benefits of home buying will continue through 2013. Interest rates remain at historic lows, home prices are affordable and home choices are plentiful."
Suguitan said the biggest issue in the housing market is the number of units available for sale. Because of historically low interest rates, it remains a buyer's market and there are still potential sellers holding off on listing their homes for the time being.
"That indicates in my mind that some sellers who normally would be put their house on the market now or in the past are saying that it's a buyer's market and we don't need to sell right now," he said. "We'd like to, but we don't need to. We're afraid that it will take a bigger hit. We will wait in the coming months and see what the market does. If we get our equity out, we're fine, but we won't take a loss."
Nationwide, real estate agents also are witnessing a strengthening market. According to the latest report from the National Association of Realtors, pending home sales decreased in December but have remained above year-over-year levels for 20 consecutive months. The new data, which is based on contract signings and not closings, reveal that although U.S. home sales fell by 4.3 percent between November and December, December sales were 6.9 percent higher than the number of sales recorded in December 2011.
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 239-2526.