There are far more homes on the market locally than there were at this time last year. As of April 1st, there were 43.3 percent more properties listed for sale in Chicago and the six-county metro area than on the same date a year ago, according to data from the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois (MLS). What’s more, ZipRealty, a California-based sales firm with a sizable Chicago presence, determined last week that Chicago’s inventory of homes for sale jumped by 7.5 percent from February to March-exceeding the 6.5 percent average for 18 major metropolitan areas surveyed by the company. It’s also a much bigger jump than the norm reported last week by the Wall Street Journal. The paper cited Credit Suisse Group’s finding that, since 1985, the average February-to-March increase in inventory nationwide has been 1.7 percent.

With the average time to sell a home here now hovering around 137 days, sellers seem to have acknowledged the change in the local real-estate market. “There’s been a change in sellers’ expectations,” says Terry Semmens, ZipRealty’s Chicago district director. “They’re waiting to buy [until] after they’ve sold. Too many people suffered through 2006 supporting multiple house payments, so now [sellers] are putting the house up before they go looking for their next house.” The big uptick in inventory now, he suggests, is the result of many sellers calculating that, in order to get moved into a new place by the beginning of the next school year, “they should get started now so they don’t get stressed when summer is coming around and they still haven’t sold.”

At the same time, Semmens says, sellers seem to be willing now to take offers that are contingent on would-be buyers’ selling their old house first. “This is part of reality again,” he says. It all means that buyers see the balance tilting even further in their favor with more houses to choose from-and more favorable contractual terms.