Severe winter weather has been blamed for the recent decline in metro-east area home sales.
Between January and March, St. Clair County recorded 444 transactions -- down from the 500 recorded during the same span last year.
In Madison County, 160 sales were recorded in the country in January and 178 were recorded in February before the county's sales soared by 338 in March for a first-quarter total of 676 sales -- 50 more than what was recorded during the first quarter in 2013.
Greater Gateway Association of Realtors President and Chief Operating Officer Al Suguitan said the sales surge in Madison County may reflect an initial lag in transactions that were underway earlier this year that were recently completed. He also said the past winter is only one factor to consider when analyzing recent transactions.
"It's easy to say it's the weather," Suguitan said. "There is some truth in that. How you measure it is anyone's guess. I like to take a total look at this by looking into the unemployment rate in the region and nationwide and try to be more circumspect in my analysis."
Illinois' unemployment rate fell to 8.4 percent in March, the lowest level since January 2009. Closer to home, Realtor Association of Southwestern Illinois President Tricia Tialdo said residential real estate transactions in St. Clair County have recently picked up as homes for sale spent less time on the market throughout March.
"Days on market in March 2014 in St. Clair County are down 12 percent compared to March 2013, which is great news," Tialdo said.
The Illinois Association of Realtors also has cited harsh winter weather for the 11.6 percent drop in homes sales in March. Association President Phil Chiles said the sales that were anticipated for March may be coming later as a result of the past winter.
"What we're seeing now is as the weather improves, finally, there is a significant increase in new listings," Chiles said. "I think what happened is with the winter as bad as it was, even people who typically plan to put their homes on the market by the first of March or mid March weren't able to come and cleanup and fix up like they wanted to because the weather delayed everything."
"I think it's that way all over the state," he said. "There is a lag."
National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said that more buyers had the opportunity to look at homes and make an offer last month after bitter cold temperatures and frequent snowfall kept them away, said in a statement released last week. The national association is also reporting an increase in pending home sales nationwide after existing homes were fell by 0.2 percent in March compared to March 2013. The national association also reported existing home sales in the Midwest dropped by 10 percent in that same timeframe.
National association housing statistics director Danielle Hale said March marked the 25th consecutive month that average home prices increased while inventory remains low.
"Price have gone up and homes are not as affordable as they were in 2013," Hale said. "They are still as affordable as they have been in many years, but if your reference point is last year, they they're not as affordable."
"The toughest thing that most sellers may find is as they are trying to purchase another home, it's more difficult and it's not easy to sell their current home because of limited inventory."
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 239-2526.