LINCOLN PARK — Heading into the spring home-selling season, real estate statistics for the near north side of the city indicate prices are beginning to rise and the market is turning into a sellers market.
While luxury home buyers — those in the market for homes costing more than $2 million — have not yet fully re-entered the market in Lincoln Park, Old Town, Lakeview, near north and the Loop, homes selling for less than $1 million have been flying off the market compared year earlier.
The turnaround has been a quiet one because home prices haven't risen dramatically over the past 1-1/2 years, but sales have increased drastically.
"In this area, for the past 16 months we've seen dramatic sales increases and dramatic inventory decreases and we are finally starting to see the prices rise," said John Irwin of Baird & Warner.
Sales increased by nearly 23 percent from January 2012 to January 2013 in the combined areas of Lincoln Park, Old Town, Lakeview, near north and the Loop, according to Chicago Multiple Listing Service data.
In January, 339 homes were sold in the area compared to 279 in 2012 and 233 in 2011, according to the data.
For each month in 2012, more homes were sold than the same month in 2011, and the numbers of units for sale has dropped drastically between the two years.
In January, 2,486 homes were for sale in the area compared to 4,098 in January 2012.
"It's been very quiet because home prices haven't really risen," Irwin said. "It began 16 months ago very quietly. I think people started really recognizing it's a turnaround in August."
In Lincoln Park, a four-bedroom, 3-1/2-bath, 1,876 square-foot townhouse at 439 W. Armitage Ave., which in June 2005 had sold for $640,00, sold for $645,000 in early February. A two-bedroom, three-bath townhouse at 1615 N. Larrabee St., which had sold for $600,000 in 2004 and at $590,000 in June 2010, sold for $610,000 on Jan. 14.
In River North, a three-bedroom, two-bath, 2,500 square-foot apartment at 214 W. Huron St., which had sold for $550,000 in 2003, sold for $665,000 in late January.
Irwin, an expert in the area and longtime agent, said the uptick in the market has made it difficult for some of his clients to find homes.
"It's a scramble. It's really a scramble. There's just not that much out there," he said. "We are seeing a lot of multiple offers on properties where two or three people are making offers on the same property."
Real estate agents expect more homes to come back on the market in the spring season, and likely much higher prices than just a year ago.