Bicentennial Plaza transformation begins

A steam shovel operator starts knocking down an old bank building Friday as part of the Bicentennial Plaza project. (Bill Kozar Photo)

Construction crews have begun dismantling an old bank branch building and chiseling up pavement to make way for the Bicentennial Plaza – A REALTOR® Community Partnership in downtown Springfield.

The demolition launches the $2 million project which will be part of a vision to link the Abraham Lincoln National Historic Site to the state Capitol with a pedestrian mall. Once completed, the space will be available for public use for events ranging from performances to craft shows.

Bicentennial Plaza is being built on land owned by Illinois REALTORS®, a century-old trade association representing more than 47,000 real estate professionals. The association saw the creation of the public space as a way to give back to the community and the state.

The former bank building is on Sixth St., east of the Illinois REALTORS® headquarters. (Bill Kozar Photo)

“Illinois REALTORS® wanted to do something significant to celebrate the state that has provided so much to our members and those who rely on them,” said the association’s 2018 president, Matt Difanis. “Since our headquarters is located in the heart of Springfield’s historic district, our members felt it was important to play a supporting role in the bicentennial celebration.”

The plaza will extend from South Fifth Street to South Sixth Street. As part of the work, a former bank building will be demolished to make way for a space which will feature interpretive panels celebrating the people, places and events that complement Lincoln’s vision for society with equality and opportunity for all.

The association formed a task force nearly two years ago to begin planning for the project which is located on the north side of the association’s Springfield headquarters. Bicentennial Plaza is listed as a “Signature Project” by the state’s Bicentennial Commission, and will be part of festivities celebrating the 200th birthday in 2018. Chicago REALTOR® Jim Kinney is on the commission, and has been a longtime advocate for preserving the state’s heritage.

“Illinois REALTORS® work with heart in every community, so it’s only natural that we want to play a role in celebrating the state’s rich history,” said Jim Kinney, who is also a past president of Illinois REALTORS®.

The association is working with local REALTOR® associations throughout Illinois to commemorate the Bicentennial. More than 30 projects are being undertaken by these associations ranging from funding long-needed improvements to providing labor for clean-up days.

The pavement in the Illinois REALTORS® north parking lot has been torn up so that a pedestrian mall for public gatherings can replace it.  (Bill Kozar Photo)

Strong buyer demand, lower inventory push Illinois home prices higher in September

September 2017 Housing InfographicHomes sold quickly and at higher median prices in September, even as statewide home sales dipped slightly amid lower than normal housing inventory levels, according to Illinois REALTORS®.

Statewide home sales (including single-family homes and condominiums) in September 2017 totaled 13,657 homes sold, down 4.0 percent from 14,223 in September 2016.

The statewide median price in September was $192,500, up 6.9 percent from September 2016, when the median price was $180,000. The median is a typical market price where half the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

“Sellers are definitely reaping the benefits of a market which in many areas continues to be dogged by tight inventories,” said Illinois REALTORS® President Matt Difanis, ABR, CIPS, GRI of Mahomet, co-owner of RE/MAX Realty Associates in Champaign. “Although the summer selling season is drawing to a close, interest on the part of many buyers does not seem to be waning as evidenced by the short time on average it is taking to complete a purchase.”

The time it took to sell a home in September averaged 51 days, down from 58 days a year ago. Available housing inventory totaled 60,669 homes for sale, a 10.5 percent decline from September 2016 when there were 67,796 homes on the market.

The monthly average commitment rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 3.81 percent in September 2017, a decrease from 3.88 percent the previous month, according to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. In September 2016, it averaged 3.46 percent.

In the nine-county Chicago Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area (PMSA), home sales (single-family and condominiums) in September 2017 totaled 9,634 homes sold, down 4.6 percent from September 2016 sales of 10,095 homes. The median price in September 2017 was $230,000 in the Chicago PMSA, an increase of 5.7 percent from $217,500 in September 2016.

“Housing inventory continues to dampen sales,” said Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois. “This problem is reflected in the significant increases in the sales prices of foreclosed properties, increasing by over 15 percent compared to 5 percent for regular sales.”

According to the data, thirty (30) Illinois counties reported sales gains for September 2017 over previous-year numbers, including Kendall County, up 11.4 percent with 245 units sold; Peoria County, up 7.3 percent with 221 units sold; Sangamon County, up 3.9 percent with 267 units sold; and Champaign County, up 3.2 percent with 196 units sold. Sixty-three (63) counties showed year-over-year median price increases including Rock Island County, up 22.4 percent to $112,000; DuPage County, up 10.0 percent to $265,000; and Cook County, up 6.3 percent to $238,000.

The city of Chicago saw a 3.7 percent year-over-year home sales decline in September 2017 with 2,309 sales, down from 2,398 in September 2016. The median price of a home in the city of Chicago in September 2017 was $275,000, up 5.8 percent compared to September 2016 when it was $260,000.

“Although the market has slowed somewhat from peak summer activity, it continues to push forward, with decreases in overall inventory and market time reflecting continued interest in investing in a home,” said Rebecca Thomson, president of the Chicago Association of REALTORS® and Vice President of Agent Development at @properties. “Moving into the colder months, pricing properties correctly will continue to be the key to capturing serious buyer attention, and quick decision making and flexibility will gain greater importance as inventory declines.”

Sales and price information are generated by Multiple Listing Service closed sales reported by 28 participating Illinois REALTOR® local boards and associations including Midwest Real Estate Data LLC data as of Oct. 7, 2017 for the period Sept. 1 through Sept. 30, 2017. The Chicago PMSA, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, includes the counties of Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will.

Illinois REALTORS® is a voluntary trade association whose more than 47,000 members are engaged in all facets of the real estate industry. In addition to serving the professional needs of its members, Illinois REALTORS® works to protect the rights of private property owners in the state by recommending and promoting legislation to safeguard and advance the interest of real property ownership.

Find Illinois housing stats, data and the University of Illinois REAL forecast at

Apply for $1,500 MIPIM stipend before Nov. 30 deadline

Some real estate representatives navigate to MIPIM conference in Cannes, France by water.

Illinois REALTORS® interested in global real estate can apply for one of 10, $1,500 stipends to attend what’s billed as the largest real estate conference of its kind in the world. MIPIM 2018 will be in Cannes, France, March 13-16. Here’s how to apply.

The deadline for submitting MIPIM stipend applications is Nov. 30. Winners will be judged on:

  • demonstrated track record of participation in global real estate activities at the local, state or national association level;
  • global real estate-related designations (i.e. – CCIM, CIPS, CRE, etc.); and
  • experience with international real estate transactions.

Others will fly to the MIPIM conference.

But applying for the stipend is just part of the process. Members of the National Association of REALTORS® can get a discounted registration rate for MIPIM, and the registration code will be available soon from NAR. Once it is announced, the code will be available on the Illinois REALTORS® MIPIM page.

In the meantime, REALTORS® who want to attend MIPIM should start making hotel and plane reservations, and start the process of applying for a passport if they don’t already have one.

The annual conference on the French Riviera attracts more than 24,000 people who are engaged in all aspects of the real estate business. The conference features a massive trade show and the opportunity to meet with decision-makers from some of the world’s largest firms.

Look for Illinois REALTORS® September housing report tomorrow


Illinois REALTORS® will release its September 2017 housing report Friday morning, with data breakdowns for the state of Illinois, city of Chicago and the nine-county Chicago Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area (PMSA).

Also included will be a housing market forecast by Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois.

Members of the statewide association can access member-only market statistics by using their passwords.