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COVID-19 May Have Helped Spur Home Sales In 2020

Offices of the Champaign County Association of Realtors in Savoy, IL.

CHAMPAIGN – Sales of existing homes in Illinois were up in December and for 2020 as a whole, and the COVID-19 pandemic may have played a part.

The trade group Illinois Realtors reports 14,835 homes sold statewide in December, up 28.7% from December 2019.  172,394 homes were sold in Illinois during all of 2020, up 9.6% from 2019. Illinois Realtors also reported increases in home sale prices, with the year-end 2020 median price reaching $225,000 up 7.7% from 2019.

The Champaign County Association of Realtors reported similar increases for existing home sales in the Champaign County area. 242 homes were sold in December, up 14.69% from the previous December. And 3,098 homes were sold in the area during all of 2020, a 12.49% increase. The median home sale price for 2020 was $167,625, up 7.28% from 2019. (Illinois Realtors reported slightly different sales figures for the Champaign-Urbana metro area: 244 homes sold in 2020, for a 13.5% increase over the previous year; the 2020 median home sale price was $164,000, down 0.6%).  

CCAR president Liz McDonald says home sales were down in early spring, as much of Illinois’ economic activity was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic. But she says housing sales recovered and grew as the year went on.

“I think in February and March, we weren’t sure what was going to happen,” said McDonald. “And it has been a surprisingly busy year, and kept most area Realtors very busy.”

McDonald credits low interest rates for the improved home sales. But she also says the COVID-19 pandemic played a role, by forcing people to spend more time at home and reconsider their living quarters.

“So we saw many people that may not have been anticipating a move taking advantage of those low interest rates, while being able to get into a home that better suited their needs during this past year,” said McDonald, who added that the number of buyers seeking homes rose in 2020, even though housing inventories were down, leading to a rise in prices.

“While we didn’t have as many homes to sell, there were more buyers in the market,” said McDonald.

McDonald said the most popular real estate price range (and the range where housing inventory was tightest) last year in Champaign County was $150,000 to $300,000.

Meanwhile, Geoffrey Hewings with the University of Illinois Regional Economics Applications Lab says most of the growth in home sales is with higher-priced homes, which are also selling for higher prices than the year before. 

“Housing affordability has declined,” said Hewings. “And the lower income groups have for the most part, been the recipients of the lowest increase, in some cases no increase, in real wages. So their capacity to purchase houses has been reduced.”

Hewings says the strongest growth in home sales tends to be in areas with strong service and academic sectors, like Champaign-Urbana. By comparison, Illinois Realtors says December home sales were flat in the Decatur area compared to last year, with 115 homes sold each year. Just 50 homes were sold in the Danville area last month, a 27% drop from the previous December. Home sales were also down 5.5% in the Bloomington metro area, with 208 units sold. Illinois Realtors reported higher home sales in the state’s other metro areas.

Picture of Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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