The red hot real estate market in Forest Park slowed somewhat in 2006, though the change was less dramatic than the national trend in which sales for existing homes declined and in some areas prices even fell. Here in the village, prices seem to have stabilized rather than dropped, according to several local players.

“It’s slowed down drastically,” said Richard Gray, co-owner of Reich and Becker Realtors. “It’s slowed up here the same as it has all over. The real slow up in our office started in September.”

A small rise in mortgage rates contributed to the slowdown, but Gray said slipping sales may also be a reaction to double digit price increases in recent years. Such steep increases have leveled off and prices are no longer rocketing skyward, Gray said.

These market influences are not unique to Forest Park, Gray said.

“I don’t care if it’s Forest Park, Oak Park, River Forest, Lombard or Plainfield or if you go to Nevada and Florida; it’s all the same,” Gray said.

Buyers can afford to be more selective in this new market. Two years ago houses were selling in 30 or 60 days after being put on the market, Gray said. Now the average selling time is closer 150 to 180 days.

As of mid December, 72 single family homes were sold in Forest Park in 2006, according to data from the multiple listing service provided by Gray. The average list prices for these homes were $341,280 and the average sale price was $330,583.

In 2005, 100 homes sold in Forest Park with an average list price of $328,069 and an average sale price of $317,726. In 2004, 120 homes changed hands with an average list price of $269,093 and the average sale price was $259,084.

Speculators and rehabbers have been hurt most by the slowdown, Gray said, though one of Forest Park’s most active developers said the market is still quite strong.

Barney O’Reilly of Cherryfield Development said Forest Park is still a very attractive market that offers great value to home buyers, particularly those from Chicago.

“Forest Park is like the new Wicker Park,” O’Reilly said. “People who are new to Forest Park feel they are getting phenomenal value for their money.”

O’Reilly focuses on infill and tear downs. His homes are usually in the $499,000 to $650,000 price range.

O’Reilly said that for him, market conditions are still good and have recovered from a slowdown he noticed just a few months ago before the November elections.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” O’Reilly said.

Also capitalizing on the speculation market is Focus Development with its Residences at the Grove condominium and townhouse project. Sales agent Patricia Ahern said the company has already sold 36 of the 60 town homes for the project.

“We’ve had a lot of sales,” Ahern said. “We’ve been very busy.”

Residences at the Grove is still under construction near the Forest Park Blue Line station. The first of two 70-unit condo buildings was recently finished and Ahern said there are only five units left. The second condo building is under construction, and is expected to be completed in October of 2007. Focus Development has already sold 20 units there, Ahern said.

Prices for condominiums at Residences for the Grove range from $236,990 to $457,999. Town homes range from around $370,000 for a two-bedroom townhouse to the mid $400,000 for a three-bedroom unit, Ahern said.

“People see us an alternative to River North,” Ahern said.

Still, the market trend shows a clear dip in sales when compared to recent years, and Gray said this ultimately will weaken the forecast for big ticket homes.

“In the upper $300,000s, $400,000s and higher houses are just sitting,” Gray said. “You don’t have the buyers out there.”