Know the market, the local market

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By Maria Murzyn

Fun, free and inexpensive events blogger

If you're currently looking to sell or purchase a single-family home in Oak Park, here's what you need to know:

You need to be aware that while national real estate statistics are excellent indicators of the status of the market in general, it's more important to have knowledge of what is happening locally. It would be wise to sit down with an agent and look over pertinent statistics such as current closed sales prices and the number of foreclosures and short sales for the first six months of 2012 compared to those in 2011. Of course, taking a peek at active homes on the market is also a good idea.

Currently, in some categories, the local market is better than stable — and that's not just eternal optimism from a real estate agent. The good news is two-fold. Seventy-six four-or-four-plus bedroom homes sold in the first six months of this year versus 60 in 2011. And, wait, the median sales price is up almost 9 percent. As of this writing there are 69 actives with list prices ranging from $225,000 to $1.3 million, so the inventory is healthy.

But there's always a downside in real estate. Three bedroom homes currently on the market show mixed signals. Eighty-seven sold Jan. through June of 2012 versus 81 in the same period in 2011. However, the median sales price is down 3 percent year-to-year. There are 54 actives with list prices from $99,900 to $675,000.

Now, let's look at foreclosures. For three-and-three-plus bedroom homes, 14 sold in the first six months of 2012, where 15 sold in the same period a year ago. On the surface, that may seem encouraging, but the number of short sales is increasing.

Short sales, or pre-foreclosures, are homes whose sellers are in financial hardship and are being permitted by their lender to sell for less than the mortgage amount. Earlier this year, the U.S. government announced a $25 billion settlement with five of the nation's largest banks over charges of systemic and widespread mortgage fraud, which is generating more short sales. From January through June, 14 sold compared to 12 in the same 2011 period. The bad news is there are 16 short sales currently listed in Oak Park. Another elephant in the room is that four of these have been active for almost 500 or more days.

To judge if the market is up or down overall in Oak Park, it's critical that one examines closed sale prices. Look at what buyers actually paid, and not list prices. Market value is determined by sold prices.

Median sales price is another key element. This number tells us that half the homes are above or below the stated figure. Average numbers are mathematical computations and often skewed if too many high or low figures are combined.

So, in the first half of this year sold prices for three-bedroom homes are down slightly from last year, while four and four-plus bedroom home values are up. In these same six months, foreclosures are pretty much at 2011 levels, but the high number of active short sales should alert us to a potential increase for final foreclosure figures.

The data in this column is gleaned from the MRED (Midwest Real Estate Data), formerly known as the MLS (Multiple Listing Service).

Maria Murzyn works part-time for Wednesday Journal and is also a Realtor for Better Homes & Gardens Gloor Realty Company.


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