The housing market in the Tri-Cities and nearby communities appeared to close out 2012 well, according to the latest round of local home sales data.
Driven by low interest rates and increasing rents, home sales spiked in the region in December and home prices appeared to hold firm.
In the Tri-Cities, the number of homes sold in the three communities combined increased about 17 percent in December, compared to the same month in 2011.
The MainStreet Organization of Realtors, a trade group representing Chicago-area real estate agents, reported 88 homes sold last month, compared to 75 in December 2011.
Homes sold under “distress” – meaning they were placed on the market as a result of foreclosure or short sale – accounted for a relatively large share of that total; 30 distressed properties sold in the Tri-Cities in December.
Those properties accounted for about 34 percent of the total, and it marked an increase from December 2011, when just 18 distressed properties sold in the Tri-Cities.
The December sales numbers for the Tri-Cities helped the year close relatively strong. In all, the Tri-Cities logged 1,193 home sales in 2012, up 16 percent from 2011, the MainStreet Organization reported.
In Kane County, 500 homes sold in December, according to a report from the Illinois Association of Realtors. That represented a 15.7 percent increase from December 2011, when 432 homes sold countywide.
For the year, 6,274 homes sold in Kane County, the IAR reported, up 22.9 percent from 2011, when just 5,104 homes sold.
While sales increased, prices continued to move in a positive direction, industry data showed.
In the Tri-Cities, the average median home price for the three communities increased 21.7 percent in December, rising from $243,133 in December 2011 to $296,000 last month, the MainStreet Organization reported.
For the year, the median home price in the Tri-Cities increased 2 percent, from $283,092 to $288,809.
Likewise, in Kane County, the median price in December increased 9.4 percent from $130,000 last year to $142,070, the IAR said.
The median price for homes sold in Kane County edged down 1.4 percent from $145,000 to $143,000.
Michael Parent, broker manager for the Coldwell Banker office in St. Charles, said the increase was driven largely by low interest rates, a better inventory of available homes and increasing rents on tenant properties.
“Buyers are asking, ‘Why should I pay $1,800 a month to rent when I can buy a house or a condo and pay $1,200 a month,’ ” Parent said.
Parent said the number of foreclosures continues to drag on the market. But he said the market is rising despite the continued presence of the “shadow inventory” of distressed properties held back by banks.
He said he believed the housing market would benefit most from more job creation, enhanced by government policies that encouraged business.