Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full? (March Insider Report)

It depends on which side you ask.

Spring has officially arrived in Chicago, with new listings sprouting up like tulips, bringing a notable increase in inventory. However, buyers are still somewhat hesitant, even as the market begins to thaw. So what’s going on with Chicago’s housing market? Are things improving, or are we still in the grim shadow of the bubble? Read on to find out!

Inventory Up Across the Board

As the spring market chugs along, sellers’ optimism has abounded, as evidenced by the large number of homes placed on the market. Not only is March’s inventory up vs. the previous month, but it’s also up quite a bit from the same month last year. If you exclude bank-owned homes (REOs) from the equation, the traditional listing inventory represents a greater increase over last year’s numbers.

County Compared to Feb. 2011

Compared to March 2010
Cook County +8.5% +4.2%
DuPage County +12.8% +2.1%
Kane County +9.0% +7.5%
Lake County +9.5% +2.2%
McHenry County +6.8% +3.7%
Will County +9.7% +5.2%

Change in # of Houses for Sale on March 31st 2011

Buyers Feeling Jittery, But Still Buying

Negative factors in March included interest rates settling higher (although still at historically low levels) and big picture negative economic pressures such as the events in Japan and the Middle East. In short, buyers are feeling a bit more jittery. Again month-over-month numbers are expectedly up. However, we’re significantly down in sold properties from a year ago.

County Compared to Feb. 2011 Compared to Feb. 2011 Adjusted for # Weekdays Compared to March 2010 Compared to March 2010 Adjusted for # Weekdays
Cook County +27.6% +11.0% -18.5% -18.5%
DuPage County +47.8% +28.5% -14.5% -14.5%
Kane County +43.1% +24.4% -5.8% -5.8%
Lake County +44.8% +25.9% -18.5% -18.5%
McHenry County +24.5% +8.2% -22.6% -22.6%
Will County +22.8% +6.8% -30.0% -30.0%

Change in # of Houses That Sold in March 2011

The number of offers being made by Redfin buyers has actually increased, but with the differences in market confidence, “there’s a standoff at the OK Corral,” according to Chicago Redfin agent Greg Whelan. A phenomenon noticed by Redfin Agent Jim Carollo is that “offers seem to be failing to come together for seemingly innocuous reasons.” The theory is that both sides get to a point where neither is satisfied and, therefore, every molehill becomes a mountainous divide.

Two significant areas in which Redfin agents have seen increases, however, are buyers of high-end homes, according to Redfin agent Dario Medina, and cash buyers, noted by Greg.

Prices Up M-o-M, But Down From Last Year

In the short term, prices did rise M-O-M. However, looking back to the same month last year, we are down considerably; a point of concern for some and an opportunity for others, depending on how one sees the glass.

County Median Price in
March 2011
Median $/SqFt Change
since Feb. 2011
Median $/SqFt Change
since March 2010
Cook County $144,900 -1.8% -13.4%
DuPage County $250,000 +1.5% -10.0%
Kane County $155,000 +2.4% -7.6%
Lake County $198,900 +4.8% -9.2%
McHenry County $171,500 +5.1% -18.0%
Will County $188,000 +5.9% -4.3%

Change in Median Price of Houses That Sold in March 2011

Distressed Homes, Not As Distressed

Speaking of the aforementioned REOs; while numbers have dropped, their quality has improved.Western Suburban Redfin agent Patrick Lusk thinks the banks have finally learned their lessons. The homes are “looking nicer and not lasting on the market as long. Rather than pricing them to the max and letting them deteriorate while sitting on the market, banks have been keeping the quality up and prices down. This has resulted in multiple offer situations and quicker sales at prices near or above list.”

Want to know what’s happening in your neighborhood? Download our comprehensive spreadsheet and dig into the data for yourself! Inside you’ll find county, city, and neighborhood information galore. To learn more about how we calculate these numbers, check out our methodology page. You can also liven up the place by posting a comment below.

Mark Reitman
Chicago Market Manager

  • Bdhayes1

    Thank you for posting this. I am feeling optimistic so the half full approach is guiding my day. It isn't easy, but I still believe in America. Maybe we have to hit bottom first, but we will rebound!

    Brian Hayes