CHICAGO—After an anemic 2014, this spring new home sales in theregion finally started to pick up, according to theIllinois Association of REALTORS®. And this moreactive market has given a boost to local new-home builders such asNorthbrook-based Red Seal Homes. The companyreports strong sales at its new Provenance development, a luxurymaster-planned community of 137 homes in the Northbrook area.Buyers have signed contracts on roughly two to three homes eachweek since sales began in March, according to the builder.

Across Chicago's suburbs, sales of new-construction homes wereup nearly 5% in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the sameperiod last year, according to a report from Tracy Crossand Associates, a Schaumburg, IL-based real estateconsulting firm. Still, the recent uptick in suburban sales hasn'tsparked enough new construction to balance housing supply anddemand. “At present, only 79 individual establishments are buildinghomes in the region's production sector which compares with 529that were doing so in 2005 when the market was at its peak,” theCross report shows.

“We're a medium-sized, privately-held firm,” BrianHoffman, an executive with Red Seal Homes,, and the Provenance development is “enough for us toachieve the kind of sales we're looking for.” And currently, thebig public firms don't see sufficient upside to launching majorhousing developments. “Land is very expensive and the market, whilefunctional, is not robust. We're still in a time when many arecautious.” When the top five builders have 12 to 14 subdivisionsunderway, “then we'll know things are healthy.”

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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.