At first glance, the news was disturbing-reports earlier this week that downtown condo sales had nose-dived by 46 percent in the first quarter of 2007. But contrary to those early reports, the downtown condo market has not stalled, only slowed.

According to Gail Lissner of the Appraisal Research Counselors-the local real-estate consultants that provided the data for this latest round of news-sales did drop by 46 percent, but only when compared with the first quarter of 2006. But the market of a year ago differs considerably from today’s. The more appropriate comparison, Lissner suggests, is to the two quarters immediately prior to first quarter 2007-periods when the new, slower pace of sales prevailed. With the more recent figures in mind, the recent sales report “wasn’t an improvement, but it wasn’t a decline,” says Lissner. “It leveled off.” The number of units sold in the first quarter was approximately equal to the number of new units that came on the market, she notes. Which is to say, the logjam of new condos didn’t clear, but it didn’t get any more crowded, either.

By one measure, the condo market even showed slight signs of improvement in the last quarter. Because enormous numbers of new condos came on the market in 2006, Lissner points out, the number of finished but unsold condos kept rising throughout the year. “That’s stabilized now,” she says, “and that’s a positive feature.” Most of the unsold inventory Appraisal Research is tracking now, Lissner explains, is proposed condos still on the drawing boards; that is, they are not yet under construction. Some of those units might be postponed indefinitely, easing the logjam even more by providing time for the market to absorb what’s already been built.

In Chicago’s June cover story about the South Loop, Appraisal Research noted that 45.6 percent of the condos sold in downtown Chicago in 2006 were in the South Loop. The latest figures show that the neighborhood continued to lead in sales. About 47 percent of all condos sold in the downtown area in the first quarter of 2007 were in the South Loop, according to the company’s data. “There is still a very strong indication of demand for South Loop condos,” Lissner says.