Though real estate activity dropped steeply in the first two weeks of the stay-home order, March still ended strong on some measures, an indication that the Chicago-area housing market was entering spring on an upswing.

More Chicago-area homes went under contract to buyers in March than in the same period a year ago, according to figures compiled April 6 by Midwest Real Estate Data, the regional multiple-listing service, and more homes came on the market during the month than in March 2019.

“Our spring was off to a really good start,” said Jon Broadbooks, MRED’s chief communications officer.

Last month, 16,525 homes went under contract to buyers in the Chicago area. That’s up nearly 19 percent from March 2019. The figure is heavily front-loaded toward the early weeks of the month—a little over 57 percent of the contracts came in the first two weeks of the month, before the stay-home order took effect on March 14.

If the number of contracts had continued rising, as it was in the weeks prior to and early in March, the total for the month might have shown a far larger jump over March 2019’s 13,932 contracts. Instead, contracts dropped by more than half, from nearly 4,800 new contracts in the first week of March to fewer than 2,100 in the last week, as seen in a data visualization posted by MRED.

“A lot of things were in process prior to COVID,” said Stephanie Cutter, a Coldwell Banker agent in the city. “People are upsizing, they’re downsizing, their family needs have changed, and they need to move.”

Cutter put four clients’ homes on the market in the past few weeks, and took Crain’s call from a showing at one of them. The people who listed the houses during the shutdown, she said, “had been working on this for a few months,” decluttering the house and making minor repairs to ensure that the listing photos would look their best. “They had to make the decision whether to go ahead and list.” Those who do, she said, are mostly those who “already have their next home to go to” either under contract or fully purchased.

New listings also ended March with higher numbers than the same time a year ago, according to MRED’s data. During the month, 27,419 Chicago-area homes hit the market, about 11 percent more than listed in March 2019. Here, too, the bulk of the activity was pre-COVID. More than 8,740 homes went on the market in the first week of March, and by the last week of the month, it was down almost 48 percent. In the last week of the month, 4,583 homes came on the market.

The new-listings figure for the last week of the month was up from 4,288 the week before, which was the first full week of the stay-home order. Broadbooks suggests that’s evidence of real estate agents and their clients adjusting their approach to make the new reality work.

Another piece of evidence, he said, is a late-in-the-week increase in the number of open houses scheduled for this past weekend. In the middle of last week, there were about 100 open houses scheduled for the weekend of April 4, but by the time the weekend arrived, the number had doubled. Broadbooks believes this is because people have devised ways to rely on virtual open houses, such as when an agent stands alone inside the home and broadcasts about it on FaceTime.

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago has launched a website expressly for virtual open houses, and many listings now say some version of “a virtual walkthrough is available.”

None of the data so far released provides insight into where sale prices will go as a result of the shutdowns.