The spring real estate market is getting started in Illinois, and the evidence is in the 40% uptick in sales this March compared to February of this year, according to the Illinois Association of REALTORS® March home sales report.

This month-to-month upward trend is expected to continue through June in the range of +10-15% statewide and +7-23% for the nine-county Chicagoland region, says economist Dr. Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, director of the University of Illinois Regional Economics Applications Laboratory (REAL) in REAL’s April forecast for the Illinois housing market.

“Comparing the housing market in 2011 with 2010 and 2009, the sales volume is recovering; however, the housing prices remain well below prior year levels although the trend suggests some modest price recovery,” says Dr. Hewings  in the report.

Those looking to buy a home this spring have record high affordability working in their favor as mortgage interest rates remain below 5 percent in Freddie Mac’s North Central Region, which includes Illinois. The National Association of REALTORS® reports housing affordability conditions are at record highs dating back to 1970, but requirements to obtain mortgages have been tightened, with the average credit score rising in recent years keeping some credit-worthy families from being able to buy a home.

Jobs are another key driver for housing. The February Illinois unemployment rate fell for the 13th consecutive month to 8.9%; the last time the state rate was below 9.0% was two years ago in February 2009. These are positive signals but a much stronger job market is needed to bolster a recovering housing market.