Well I can't exactly call a 20% decline in home sales from last year a turnaround, can I? But -20% is the number that the Illinois Association of Realtors is likely to report on Thursday for December home sales in Chicago relative to the prior year. But when you compare that to the recent 40% declines we've been experiencing it looks pretty darn good.
On the other hand approximately 43% of those sales were distressed properties - either short sales or foreclosures - which is up slightly from recent levels of 39%. Now this is based upon MLS data, which also indicates that foreclosures were 30% of total December sales for the city of Chicago. This is in sharp contrast to the foreclosure sale numbers I reported yesterday from RealtyTrac. They had foreclosures as only 11.5% of December sales. I'm going to have to stop showing their numbers. I just don't believe them.
So is there any other "good news" to report here? Well, contract activity appears to be picking up and that should be a leading indicator of home sales. The graph below shows that contract volume has recently been flat compared to 2009 and has been higher than 2008 levels. Another way of looking at the data is that in 2010 we did not see the normal seasonal fall off at then end of the year. All of this is a clear improvement from earlier this year.