After coming off a year which showed gains in key metrics used to measure the health of the housing market like closed sales, market time, average and median sales prices and number of new listings, 2018 is poised to repeat a strong performance.
However, nobody has a crystal ball that will provide a clear picture showing if the inventory of homes for sale, which currently is low in all price ranges, will be there to support the incredibly strong demand that is likely to carry over to this year from 2017.
Or will a lack of available homes coupled with rising prices and possible higher mortgage rates restrain the market?
Only time will tell.
According to statistics provided by Midwest Real Estate Data LLC for Three Rivers Association of Realtors, in Will and Grundy counties there were 9,580 closed sales in 2017, which is an increase of 2.7 percent over the 9,332 reported in 2016.
The median sales price went from $190,000 to $205,000, which is up 7.9 percent.
Market times were down 15.2 percent to 70 days.
Even though new listings were up 3.3 percent over last year, the existing inventory of homes for sale went from 2,234 in 2016 to 1,888 last year. Just to put things in perspective, the inventory of homes for sale at the end of 2015 was 2,772.
Another sign of the improved economic conditions is the small percentage of closed sales that were lender-mediated.
These are the homes that fall in the foreclosed, pre-foreclosure, short sale or REO categories.
They accounted for only 8.3 percent of the total sales last year, whereas from 2009 through 2014, lender-mediated sales accounted for more than 50 percent of total homes sold, with the high point being approximately 65 percent in 2012.
Circumstances such as these would certainly be advantageous for anyone wanting or having to sell their home.
As seller optimism continues to rise due to the increase in sales prices and shorter market times, the inventory situation should be alleviated somewhat. But, an influx of new construction would also help fuel the market.
Overall, as it stands, experts expect a small increase in unit sales and home prices.
It is also unknown how the House/Senate-passed tax plan will impact housing sales. The experts agree that it will most negatively affect the upper-end sales for a while but should not have a long-term effect on overall home sales.
Housing and economic indicators such as low unemployment coupled with improving wages give reason to be optimistic, with or without the new federal tax legislation.
• Ken Pytlewski is the president of Three Rivers Association of Realtors.