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7 important details of Chicagoland’s 2016 housing market

by Peter Thomas Ricci

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Both Illinois Realtors and the Mainstreet Association of Realtors (MORe) released new reports on the state of housing in Chicagoland, and below, we have isolated the seven most notable findings from those reports.

1. Flat Home Sales – For the nine-county Chicagoland area, home sales totaled 9,895 in September, a scant 0.1 percent increase from Sept. 2015 and a marked 18.22 percent decline from August. Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, the director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois, blamed Illinois’ job market for the soft sales numbers.

“Both the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index and the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index pointed to positive directions at the national level as a result of a positive outlook on the labor market,” Hewings said. “Unfortunately, job growth in Illinois has been way below the national level, dampening housing sales.”

2. Home Prices Remain Strong – Despite September’s weak sales numbers, Illinois Realtors reported that prices continue to rise. Year-over-year, median price was up 5.1 percent to $218,000, and Hewings expects prices to increase through the year.

3. County-level Divergence – As with past months, housing performance differed considerably at the county level. Home sales in McHenry County, for instance, were up 17.1 percent from last year, while in DuPage, sales were up 3.6 percent.

Furthermore, on prices, Kane County’s median price increase was far ahead of the region’s average with a 12.9 percent uptick.

4. Livin’ for the City – September was a rough month for Chicago’s housing market, with sales falling by both yearly (down 3.2 percent) and monthly (down 17.37 percent) measurements. Although median price increased 4.6 percent year-over-year to $261,500, and time on market is down 10.6 percent to 42 days, it seems the economic trends Hewings spoke to are particularly affecting the city’s market.

5. A Suburban Slowdown – Sales activity was not much stronger in Chicagoland’s suburbs. According to MORe, single-family home sales were down 1.3 percent year-over-year, though some communities did show double-digit sales increases, including Buffalo Grove (26.5 percent), Downers Grove (26.5 percent), Hoffman Estates (15.2 percent), Mundelein (31.4 percent), Oswego (52.5 percent) and Orland Park (75.9 percent).

6. Election-Induced Hesitation – Catherine Terpstra, the president of MORe’s board of directors, pointed to a possible source for the area’s softening home sales – the presidential election.

“Some consumers may be putting their homebuying and selling on hold as we wait to see who will lead our country and make the policies that influence the economy, the job market, the nation’s healthcare system and the housing market,” Terpstra said.

Although there are no hard numbers backing up Terpstra’s idea, it is an interesting one, nonetheless – especially considering the unorthodox nature of this year’s election.

7. Subterranean Inventory Blues – If there is any consistency in Chicagoland’s market, it is the state of housing inventory, which continues to fall. According to Illinois Realtors, Chicagoland inventory was down 15.4 percent year-over-year in September, while the city’s inventory declined 11.7 percent over the same time period.

And although MORe did not specify its inventory numbers, Terpstra did speak to their effect on the market. “We keep saying that housing inventory is low, driving the prices up and market times down. That fact remains true,” she said. “Consumers may be exercising caution before the November 8 elections, but it’s still a strong sellers’ market.”

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