Sales of existing homes in the Chicago area rose again in July but, after two months of gains, the year-over-year median selling price fell.
Last month, 8,551 homes sold in the nine-county Chicago area, a 29.1 percent increase from July 2011. It was the 13th consecutive month that the number of homes sold bested its year-earlier comparison, and the strongest July since 2007.
However, the median price of $172,000 was off 5.9 percent from July 2011's $182,700, according to the Illinois Association of Realtors' monthly report on the housing market.
Prices fell within the city of Chicago too, by 2.4 percent from last July, to a median selling price of $205,000. During the month, home sales within the city rose 26.2 percent from July 2011, to 2,088 homes sold. Condo sales rose 23.2 percent from a year ago, and the median price of $248,000 was a 0.8 percent decline from July 2011's $250,000.
The median sales prices recorded for both Chicago and for the entire nine-county area in July 2011 were highest of the entire year.
July's performance followed median price gains in the Chicago area of 1.7 percent in June and 0.1 percent in May. While those upticks were heartily welcomed, real estate agents and economists have said they want to see from three to six months of real improvement before they believe the marketplace truly has moved into recovery mode. And even then, it may not be a case of homes appreciating so much as it is stemming the slide. Still, continued strength in sales volume is helping whittle down inventory.
"From a homeowner standpoint, you'd like to see the median price turn around," said Matt Farrell, managing partner of Urban Real Estate. "Even this drop is pretty stable. When you have this activity, it's a good sign of things to come."
Among Chicago's collar counties, all recorded double-digit gains in sales volume. The only one to see prices increase was DuPage, where the median price rose 1.1 percent, to $220,000.
During the first seven months of the year, 48,717 homes were sold in the Chicago area, ahead of last year's sales pace by almost 24 percent. For all of 2011, home sales totaled 103,785.
"That will be the real test, what does the fall market look like," said Loretta Alonzo, president of the Illinois Association of Realtors. "So far, this is August and we've seen a good number of people listing their homes. They're thinking the buyers are out there and the interest rates are low. They go ahead and take that plunge."
The Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday that mortgage applications to purchase a home increased 0.9 percent last week, a week in which the average contract interest rate for a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage of $417,500 or less increased to 3.86 percent, from 3.76 percent. Freddie Mac issues its weekly report on mortgage rates on Thursday.
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