Have you seen the news reports which came out at the end of October saying housing is recovering, that sales are up? These national reports from the Commerce Department, the National Association of Realtors, and other reputable sources were filled with a variety of positive news. This is good to hear, particularly since many of these same sources have been talking in terms of overall housing values being down approximately 30 percent since the boom years.

But is this national growth trend repeated in Forest Park?

Let’s look at our local numbers for home sales. Closed prices for Forest Park’s single-family homes, regardless of the number of bedrooms, were at a historical high in 2007. Thirteen homes with four or more bedrooms sold in the first nine months of 2007 at a median price of $385,000. Compare that to the activity for similar homes in the same time period of 2012. Here we see 16 closed with a median price of $238,750, which indicates values are down 38 percent in this five-year time span.

This is not what we want, and it is worse than the reported national average.

Compare this same time period in 2012 to that in 2011. From January through September in 2011, 10 homes sold at a median price of $302,000 which is down 21 percent in our year-to-year comparison.

As for three-bedroom homes, in the first nine months of 2012, 36 have sold for a median sales price of $185,000. During the same period in 2007, 26 units sold at a median price of $333,750. Unfortunately, this is a 44.5 percent decline in three-bedroom home values over the last five years.

And if we look at this year versus the first nine months of 2011, 23 units were sold with a median price of $216,000, which is slightly over a 14 percent year-to-year decline. This is certainly not good news, but it does indicate that dropping values have tapered, and the market is going in a better direction.

Another positive signal that the market is very slowly improving is that, of the total number of homes that closed in the first nine months of 2012, 13 were foreclosures and 2 were short sales. That may make you gulp and none of us wants to see people in these dire circumstances, but in order for our housing market to recover and grow, these distressed properties have to be sold as soon as possible. Currently, there are six short sales available, so the number for distressed properties also appears to be declining. This is a figure we want to see decreasing.

So is the Forest Park real estate market showing the kinds of improvements being reported on the national level?

The answer, sadly, is no.

But the election is over, there are many “deals” still to be had right now, the spring market is just around the corner, unemployment is down both nationally and in Illinois, and even though we’ve been through terrible declines, they aren’t as bad today as they were. Therefore, we may be starting to see the proverbial light at the end of what’s been a very long, dark tunnel.