Even though the Illinois Association of Realtors won't be reporting on January home sales in Chicago for another 2 weeks I can give you a pretty good idea of what they will tell you right now: home sales were down 17% from last year. Actually, that won't be the headline. As we often see they get real creative with their headlines so that they don't look so negative. The headline may talk about how the last decade saw the highest sales volume ever or how homes were at their most affordable level ever - anything to distract you from the negative 17%. You'll have to dig way down into the press release to find that number.
The only good news in here is that contract activity over the last few months has been relatively flat with respect to last year - a possible sign that the market has bottomed once again. In the graph below I put the data on a 13 month calendar so that you can see the year over year comparisons (otherwise January would just be a dot on the chart).
Keep in mind that from February through the middle of the year all the year over year comparisons are going to be abysmal as a result of the artificial activity induced last year by the government's meddling in the housing market.
And while I'm at it let's take a look at distressed property (short sales and foreclosures) activity. In Chicago, distressed properties as a percent of all sales hit a new high (since I've been tracking them) at 49.5% in January. Buyers are still shopping in the bargain bin.