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Rising Home Sales, Just Before Coronavirus’ Impact

Sales of existing homes were on the rise in Illinois and in Champaign County — up until the stay-at-home restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Now, realtors are hoping the housing market will recover quickly, once the restrictions are lifted.

Across the state, the trade group Illinois Realtors reported sales of 12,182 homes and condominiums in March, a 4.7% increase from the same month in 2019. The statewide median home price in March was $217,000, an 8.5% increase. (The median marks the price at which half the homes sold for more and half sold for less).

In east central Illinois, Illinois Realtors reported 214 homes sold in the Champaign-Ford-Piatt County area, a 7.0% increase from last year. The median home price for the area increase 1.7%, to $150,500.

By another measurement, March home sales in the Champaign County area rose by 12.06%. The Champaign County Association of Realtors reported 223 homes sold last month. The group reports the March median home sale price was $155,000, up 6.9% from last year.

But the growth seen in the March report of housing sales is not expected to continue into April, due to the economic damper produced by the coronavirus outbreak, and Gov. JB Pritkzer’s stay-at-home order.

Geoffrey J.D. Hewings with the University of Illinois’ Regional Economic Applications Laboratory cited factors such as a decline in the Fannie Mae Home Purchase Sentiment Index as evidence of a coming drop in the housing market.

“We can expect to see a growing negative impact on housing prices and sales,” said Hewings, according to a release issued by Illinois Realtors.

Champaign Association of Realtors president Julie Roth agrees that the sort of growth seen in 2020’s first quarter won’t continue while the coronavirus poses a threat.  But she predicts the housing market will bounce back, after the current restrictions are lifted.

“I’m thinking we’re going to see more of a pause,” said Roth. “And I think once we all get through this, I think there’s going to be a flurry of activity, when everything gets back to, quote, normal.”

In the meantime, Roth says realtors are continuing to show homes to buyers, either virtually, or with precautions to guard against the coronavirus.

Selling real estate is considered an essential business under Governor Pritzker’s stay-at-home order. And Roth says prospective buyers are still touring homes during the coronavirus pandemic. But there are limits. Open house events are on hold. And Roth says she always carries wipes with her, and asks sellers to take precautions before every tour.

”That they turn on all the light on before we arrive, wipe down all the handles,” said Roth. “And then of course, we wipe down everything as we’re going through. Obviously encourage our buyer-clients to wear the mask and to not touch anything while they’re in the home.”

In addition, Roth says some realtors are recording virtual tours of homes that prospective buyers can view online.

CCAR cites a National Association of Realtors survey as evidence that virtual house tours can produce sales. The NAR’s Economic Pulse Flash Survey, conducted April 12 & 13, reports that one fourth of realtors with clients with clients who put contracts on homes had at least one client do so without physically seeing the house or condo.

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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