CHICAGO—The number of statewide home sales dipped again lastmonth, but median prices also rose again, according to data fromthe Illinois Association of REALTORS®. Tightcredit standards and lower inventory levels have made decliningsales, at least on a year-over-year basis, and rising prices thenorm for this year. July marks the 23rd consecutive month of annualprice gains.

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Furthermore, the shrunken inventory has also cut the averagetime it takes to sell a home. In July, it took 65 days on average,down 9.7% from 72 days last year. And the average time to sell inthe Chicago area was 50 days, and just 43 days in the city ofChicago.

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"Buyers are snapping up properties quickly, showing that thedesire to own a home is undiminished by fewer homes on the market,"says Phil Chiles, president of the IllinoisAssociation of REALTORS® and broker-associate with the RealEstate Group in Springfield. "The high level of interestin buying is forcing prices higher, a trend we have seen throughmuch of the year."

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Statewide home sales, including condominiums, in July totaled15,390 homes, down 6.5% from 16,465 in July 2013. And the statewidemedian price in July was $179,000, up 7.2% from July 2013 when themedian price was $167,000. Sales also declined in the nine-countyChicago metro area. Home sales in July totaled 11,125 homes sold,down 8.0% from July 2013 sales of 12,090 homes. And the medianprice in metro area was $218,000, up 9.0% from $200,000 in July2013.

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“While sales in July were weaker than last year, they are stillstronger for the same month in any other year between 2008 and2012,” says Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, director of theRegional Economics Applications Laboratory of theUniversity of Illinois. But “once again, medianprices are still growing robustly.”

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“The improving national job market is reflected in a moreconfident attitude on the part of consumers and home builders,although recent employment growth in Illinois has underperformedboth the Midwest and the nation,” Hewings adds. “If the currentforeclosure inventory continues to decrease at recent rates, thenthe inventory will return to pre-recession levels by the end of theyear in Illinois.”

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The city of Chicago saw an 8.2% year-over-year decrease in homesales last month with 2,664 sales, down from 2,902 in July 2013.And the median price rose to $270,000 versus $250,000 in July 2013,an annual increase of 8.0%.

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“Inventory remains low even when the summer season is popularwith sellers looking to move,” says Matt Farrell,president of the Chicago Association of REALTORS®and managing partner of Urban Real Estate. “Now isan ideal time for sellers to contemplate their own long-term plansand consider preparing their home for a fall sale. Interest ratesremain historically low, and buyers are still seeking homes in amarket with a shortage of housing options.”

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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.