CHICAGO— Illinois home prices have now marked 20 consecutivemonths of year-over-year gains, but a depressed inventory has alsobecome a pattern, according to officials from the IllinoisAssociation of REALTORS®. The organization just publishedstatistics which show a decline in April home sales, at leastcompared to April 2013, and a decline in available inventory.

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“Inventory levels are tight but improving slightly and mortgagerates are still fairly low, giving consumers more buying power,”says Phil Chiles, president of the stateassociation and broker-associate with the Real EstateGroup in downstate Springfield. "Sellers who have beenputting off a decision to list could find this spring is the righttime to sell to take advantage of pent-up buyer demand and lessmarket competition."

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In April, a total of 11,845 homes were sold, including condos,down from 12,846 in April 2013. The association's data also showthat only 63,406 units were available, down 10.9% compared to lastyear.

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The ones that did hit the market sold rapidly, however, and forrelatively high prices. Homes spent an average of 65 days on themarket until sale, a 15.6% decrease over last year. The statewidemedian price was $156,000, up 7.6% from April 2013 when it was$145,000, the association's data show.

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Chicago's metropolitan area also saw a dip in sales. In the ninecounties that comprise the Chicago metropolitan area, a total of8,391 homes were sold, down 9.9% from the previous April. But themedian price of a metropolitan area home was $190,000, up 9.9% from$172,950 in April 2013.

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Chicago homebuyers closed on 2,210 homes, down from 2,392 inApril 2013, a 7.6% decline. And city homes saw the biggest boost inprices. The median price rose to $250,000 versus $223,250, anannual increase of 12.0%.

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“There is continuing good news with increasing median prices,”says Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, director of theRegional Economics Applications Laboratory of theUniversity of Illinois. “However, inventoryremains a problem, especially at the lower end of the market.”

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"Inventory remains at a low across the city of Chicago, creatinglower market times and increased sales prices during a time of yearwhen many traditionally are looking to buy or sell," saysMatt Farrell, president of the ChicagoAssociation of REALTORS® and managing partner ofUrban Real Estate.

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"As buyers navigate their way through the home buying process,it can't be stated enough that if you see something you like, itwon't likely be available a few days later,” he adds.

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Brian J. Rogal

Brian J. Rogal is a Chicago-based freelance writer with years of experience as an investigative reporter and editor, most notably at The Chicago Reporter, where he concentrated on housing issues. He also has written extensively on alternative energy and the payments card industry for national trade publications.