The increase in the first quarter follows a full-year uptick in 2018, but a Tracy Cross exec notes that the numbers look good in large part because “you’re coming up from a low base,” an extended drought in new-home sales in the Chicago area. 

Dennis Rodkin

Crain’s Chicago Business

May 2, 2019









Landmark & Property Group

Newly built houses in Bridgeport, along 33rd Place, several of which have sold in the past few months. The house at far left sold for $528,000 in April.

Sales of newly built homes in the Chicago area rose in the first quarter, according to an industry consultant’s data. The increase comes on the heels of a full year when new-home sales also rose.

In the first three months of 2019, builders sold 1,144 new homes locally, up more than 6 percent from the first quarter of 2018, according to the report from Tracy Cross & Associates.

The increase follows a year-end sales tally for 2018 that was up 3.1 percent from 2017.

The first-quarter growth in the Chicago area was stronger than the national figure. Sales of new homes nationwide were up about 4.3 percent in the first quarter from the same period in 2018.

“These numbers look good because you’re coming up from a low base,” said Erik Doersching, executive vice president at Tracy Cross. New-home sales have been meager for a decade, since the housing bust, and early 2018 was particularly weak. At this time last year, the Schaumburg-based firm reported sales were down 17 percent from the first quarter of 2017.

Even so, “we’re glad to see the activity,” Doersching said.

The firm’s data captures only homes sold in developments of 10 or more and covers both detached houses and attached condominiums and townhouses. Homes built on individual lots do not get counted.

In the city of Chicago, the report shows 127 sales in the first quarter, up nearly 19 percent from the first quarter of 2018. Leading the increase, Doersching said, was a run of 23 sales in a single Bridgeport subdivision of houses and townhomes.

Called AAA Residences, the homes are around Hillock and Throop streets in an isolated section of Bridgeport tucked between the South Branch of the Chicago River on the north and the Stevenson Expressway on the south. Their prices run from about $400,000 to $650,000. “You can’t get a house at that price anywhere closer to downtown Chicago,” Doersching said. (The houses in the image at the top of this story are in another part of Bridgeport.)

In the suburbs, there were 1,017 first-quarter sales, up almost 5 percent from a year earlier.

The first-quarter sales figure continues what the firm’s chief, Tracy Cross, has referred to in the past as a “low plateau.”

Local new-home sales have been below 4,000 annually for more than a decade, with first-quarter sales in the range of 800 to 1,000 for much of that time. That long, flat line came after the housing bust. In the early years of the 21st century, Chicago-area home sales were generally above 20,000 per year and 3,000 in the first quarter.

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