Winter cools metro-east housing market

News-DemocratMarch 25, 2014 

The recent series of home sales gains has witnessed a cold snap.

Analysts believe the string of local monthly home sales gains halted last month because of the colder-than-usual winter, the fourth-coldest in state history, according to the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois. The average statewide temperature for December, January and February was 20.8 degrees -- 8.2 degrees below the long-term average temperature. The season also produced more than 27 inches of snow compared to an average of 18 inches in a typical metro-east winter.

As a result, the Greater Gateway Association of Realtors has reported a 6.8 percent sales decrease in Madison County last month compared to February 2013. In St. Clair County, the Realtor Association of Southwestern Illinois recorded a 9.8 percent drop in homes sales during that same span.

Realtor Association of Southwestern Illinois President Tricia Tialdo said although the housing market generally slows during the winter months, this past winter took its toll on local sales numbers.

"It's hard to be motivated to look at a house when you have to walk through a foot of snow or brave frigid temperatures," Tialdo said in a released statement.

Statewide, home sales fell by 6.2 percent last month over February 2013. Illinois Association of Realtors President Phil Chiles said the severe winter has temporarily stalled the state's rebounding real estate market. But he also believes the recent decrease in inventory is helping create a better market for sellers, which is a sign of an stronger market. Not long ago, the housing market was saturated with a surplus of properties and not enough buyers.

"I think right now we will begin to see a balanced market," Chiles said. "We have about six months of inventory, and I think that as some of the inventory begins to sell out, demand will outpace supply and we'll see prices continue to rise, which is a good thing for sellers."

The National Association of Realtors also cited a drop in U.S. sales due to severe winter weather. Existing U.S. home sales declined 7.1 percent last month over February 2013. Sales within the Midwest fell by 12.3 percent in that time.

The national median price --a typical market price where half the homes sold for more and half sold for less -- recorded last month was $189,000. That was 9.1 percent higher than the median price in February 2013.

In Illinois, the median price increased by almost 7 percent in that same span.

The median price jumped in Madison County from $83,500 in February 2013 to $102,250 last month. But in St. Clair County, the median price fell from $46,750 to $42,000 in that time.

Tialdo said the local real estate market has a lot to offer as inventory levels are lower, homes sell faster, home prices rise and interest rates remain historically low.

Chiles believes there is pent-up demand that will come to the Illinois and metro-east housing markets as spring-like weather returns.

"I'm very confident," he said. "By end of this month, we will find the market back where it should be and we're going to see an increase with listings as well."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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