The leaders of a newly combined real estate company are bullish on the housing markets in Bloomington-Normal and Peoria, despite slowing sales and a dip in prices in 2019.
There were 2,408 home sales in McLean County in 2019, down 6.2% from 2018, according to Illinois Realtors. The average price of a home fell 3.6% to $159,000.
Low inventory continues to be a drag on the Bloomington-Normal market, especially in the $150,000 to $275,000 price range, said Tammy Heard, executive vice president at Peoria-based Jim Maloof/Realtor, which recently merged with Heard’s Bloomington-based Crowne Realty. There’s also been less corporate relocation, she said.
“We’re in a bottleneck. I wouldn’t say the market is bad. But we’re just in a temporary stall,” Heard said. “We need to get it moving. In the absence of new construction, there’s not a lot of inventory out there that’s appealing at the moment.”
There’s also a lot of optimism about Rivian, the electric automaker that’s already hired hundreds of workers at its Normal manufacturing plant. The company plans to hire at least 1,000 workers by 2024. That would make it one of McLean County’s largest employers.
Rivian workers are likely to have a regional impact on the housing market, said Michael Maloof, president and owner of Jim Maloof/Realtor. When Mitsubishi Motors owned and operated at full capacity at Rivian’s Normal plant, about half of the employees lived in the Peoria area, he said.
“There was no company that bridged that boundary for the (Peoria) area and this area,” Maloof said, referencing his company’s new merger with Crowne, now serving both markets.
Heard, a Bradley University alum, co-founded the independent brokerage Crowne in 2000. After merging with the larger, growth-centric Maloof, which is also independent, the new company has over 250 agents and staff. “There’s always strength in numbers,” Heard says.
Peoria Housing Market
Peoria real estate is still trying to find its “level” after the departure of 300 Caterpillar executives sliced off the top end of the housing market, said Maloof. The number of sales in Peoria County fell 6.1% in 2019, and the average price dropped about 3.5%, down to $114,250.
One very active part of the market, Maloof said, is millennials. He said the redevelopment of older buildings into apartments and condos is a “movement that is not to be stopped.” He pointed to the retail-and-residential project announced in November for the Warehouse District, which will add up to 99 high-end apartment units and ground-floor businesses.
Maloof said he expects those to cater to young workers from nearby companies. He said the Warehouse District is expected to add over 200 units annually for the next five years.
“So you think about 1,000 people moving downtown … people will find a place to live, and our contractors are now concentrating making those things happen downtown,” Maloof said.
He said low inventory is also a drag in Peoria. The number of homes for sale in Peoria County fell 11% in the last three months of 2019, down to 1,011, according to Illinois Realtors.