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By ALAN J. ORTBALS
    Home sales were strong across Southwestern Illinois in 2016 with the number of sales up 7 percent across the 11-county region represented by the Realtors Association of Southwestern Illinois and the Greater Gateway Association of Realtors.
p01 frazierFrazier    St. Clair, Monroe, and Randolph Counties all set records for home sales in 2016. St. Clair County reported an increase of 10.7 percent compared to 2015.  Realtors in Randolph County sold 5.4 percent more homes in 2016 over 2015.  And, Monroe County followed suit with a 1.4 percent increase in year-to-date home sales in 2016. 
    “We are excited yet not surprised by the results of 2016,” stated Mike Gross, president of the Realtor Association of Southwestern Illinois.  “We are hopeful that this trend will continue into 2017.  As Realtors, we spent a lot of time helping people reach the American dream, and we are proud of our role in that.  Not only do we help buyers and sellers in the home buying and selling, p01 wigtonWigtonbut another huge part of our job as Realtors is fighting for the rights of private property owners, which we did in 2016.  Our dedication to the Metro East and homeownership will continue into 2017.”
    On the northern end, Bond County boasted the best year with an increase in home sales of more than 27 percent. But, the county that sold the most homes in Southwestern Illinois during the year was Madison with 3,374, a 6 percent increase over 2015.
    “It was a great year,” said Rob Wigton, CEO of the GGAR, “and it’s continued strong through the winter, when normally it slows down a bit. Homes are selling relatively quickly and getting either full asking price or very close to what they are listing them for. If anything, we need more inventory.”
    December 2016 was a particularly great month for Monroe and Clinton Counties.  Realtors in Clinton County sold 30.8 percent more homes in December 2016 than in December 2015.  In that same comparison, Monroe County reported a 41.2 percent in home sales.  Monroe County also recorded a 100 percent increase in home sales in December 2016 compared to November 2016.  Realtors in Clinton County recorded a 112 percent increase in home sales in December 2016 over November of last year.  Looking at the same comparison, in December 2016, St. Clair County reported 7.1 percent increase in home sales.
    Median home prices in the Southwestern Illinois also increased in December 2016 over December 2015.  In St. Clair County, the median home price rose 14.8 percent, and Monroe County saw a 15.1 percent rise.  Clinton County recorded a 26.6 percent increase in median home price while Randolph County reported a 15.7 percent increase compared to December 2015.  Madison County saw a 12 percent increase in sale price for December 2016 over the same period the year before.
    “I think the recent bump in interest rates got people off the fence,” said Deb Frazier, CEO of RASI. They don’t want to lose out on these great interest rates and I think that’s part of why we’ve seen such a busy January.”

    Frazier agrees with Wigton — more inventory is needed but, “builders who got burned when the market turned in ’07 are a little hesitant to jump back in there with both feet,” Frazier said. “We are starting to see an increase in new construction, which is excellent,” she added. “But, at this point, we can’t get them out there fast enough.”
    The problem lies in large part on the lack of skilled craftsmen, according to Tracy Butler, executive officer of the Homebuilders Association of Greater Southwestern Illinois.
    “We are very concerned about this,” said Butler. “And it’s not just the homebuilders; it’s the subcontractors, too. We’re forming a committee to work on this issue specifically.”

IBJ Business News

Bill targets legislator retirement system

    VILLA PARK — State Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, is making a move to end the General Assembly retirement system.
    Cullerton introduced Senate Bill 1404 which would mean the General Assembly Retirement System would no longer accept new legislators.
    Senate Bill 1404 is awaiting a hearing in the Senate. 
    “It’s important for legislators to lead by example,” Cullerton said. “Going into the Senate, I knew we had a pension problem on hand.  I opted out of the General Assembly Retirement System because I didn’t want to magnify the pension crisis.”
    Cullerton is one of at least 20 active legislators who will not collect a pension from GARS.