The Illinois Association of Realtors released statewide sales numbers for December and for the full year on Thursday morning. A total of 167,860 home sales were reported in 2006, according to the Association, down 8.9 percent from 184,199 total sales during 2005. The year-end Illinois median sale price was $203,900 in 2006, up just 1.5 percent from $200,900 at the end of 2005. For the month of December 2006, total home sales were down 19.1 percent to 10,811 homes sold, compared to 13,361 sales in December 2005. In spite of the bleak price appreciation results and sharp drop in sales volume, the IAR said it is taking a positive outlook for 2007. "Illinois realtors are optimistic about the year ahead given the underlying strength of the market, which is supported by affordable mortgage interest rates at 45-year lows, gains in the Illinois economy including jobs, and demand for homeownership," said Robert Zoretich, president of the IAR. "The Illinois housing market weathered a year of contraction in sales -- experienced across the nation -- with continued modest but positive price appreciation, which shows the relative market stability of our region," he said. "Coming off the housing boom's peak year of 2005, 2006 was the fourth best year for total home sales in Illinois." In the Chicagoland MSA, the IAR reported that total home sales dropped 21.5 percent in December from last year's monthly totals, falling to 7,532 in December 2006 from at total of 9,600 home sales in the same month of 2005. The median home sale price for the Chicagoland PMSA was $245,000 in December, up a mere 0.2 percent from $244,500 in December 2005. For the year, total home sales in the Chicagoland MSA fell 12.6 percent to 116,463 in 2006, down from 133,305 sales in 2005. The 2006 median sale price in the Chicagoland was $248,000, however, up a meager 2.9 percent from $241,000 in 2005. The IAR's Zoretich, who runs a realty office in Chicago, characterized the slowing sales trend as an oppotunity for buyers to time the bottom of the Chicago housing market. "Potential homebuyers have a more favorable backdrop for buying at this time, with the current interest rate environment and inventory levels presenting an excellent window of opportunity," Zoretich said. The Illinois Association of Realtors can be found on the web at http://www.illinoisrealtor.org.