A condo building in Wicker Park

After several years of homes sitting for sale on the market for what felt like an eternity, there’s been a turn in the other direction in recent weeks and months. Now the stories of quick-moving listings are coming in fast and furious.

• A two-bedroom condo in a Wicker Park building (pictured at right) went on the market in late February and had 45 showings in the first weekend according to the listing agent, Phil Byers of @Properties.

• A two-bedroom loft in the West Loop had 35 showings in the ten days it took to sell,  says Scott Sasse of Quest Realty Group.

• A sharp River North three-bedroom loft was sold in a day. Koenig & Strey’s Debra Dobbs says there were four offers—“and I have a folder of 27 people that asked me to call them if the deal doesn’t come together.”

A townhome in Old Town and a two-bedroom condo in Lincoln Park both sold in under a week, according to their listing agent, Joanne Nemerovski of Prudential Rubloff. “It’s been crazy,” she says. “It’s hard to keep up. If you have a buyer that really wants something and you don’t get them in there in the first 24 hours, you can miss it.”

Data from Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED) confirm that the market is picking up speed. Around the Chicago area, homes that sold in January 2013 sold 18.7 percent faster than homes that sold a year earlier. Some parts of the city vastly outran that general improvement. Here’s a look at condo sales in a few popular Chicago neighborhoods (in each case, the sales of single-family home were too few to be statistically reliable):

Average time on market (in days)
Jan 2013
Jan 2012
Lincoln Park
Lake View
West Town 

(Note: West Town encompasses such places as Wicker Park, Ukrainian Village, and the East Village.)

And numerous agents say the speed of sales picked up even more in February, although data for that month aren’t out yet.

Why is this happening? Several agents say that buyers recognize that prices have begun to rise—we ended the year up 2.2 percent from a year earlier, according to the Case-Shiller index—and that interest rates may have crossed the bottom, too. “That combination has gotten buyers off the sidelines,” Sasse says. “They realize it might not get any better than this.” (See the April issue of Chicago, on newsstands next week, for our guide to where you can still find the best housing bargains.)

But it may be the people on the other side of the equation—the sellers—who are fueling this fire. They’re facing up to the market reality, most agents say, and listing their homes at today’s prices. “We’re not competing with the 2006 price in your head anymore,” Nemerovski says. Prices have been down long enough that people who want or need to sell have ample evidence that if they want the home to move, they have to let go of those old numbers, the agents all agree.

Not all sellers want to take that bitter medicine, so they opt to take their homes off the market. That only contributes to the already diminished inventory: according to MRED, there were 40.8 percent fewer homes on the market in January than there had been a year before. That’s another factor impacting the fast home sales—and why there’s a race among ready buyers to get to those few well-priced listings.