County housing prices stay steady; sales falling

By John Holman - Special to The Freeman

Sept. 23, 2014

WAUKESHA - August home sales for the Milwaukee region, which comprises Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties, has fallen 4.9 percent from the same period last year, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association’s regional report released on Monday.

Meanwhile in Waukesha County, home prices stayed true to August 2013’s $255,000 price point, and the real estate market reported 29 fewer home sold than the 592 of last August, falling 4.9 percent.

The Milwaukee region saw 1,814 homes sold last month, compared to 1,908 last August, while average prices improved 6.8 percent to $187,250 in the same period.

The trends are representative of Wisconsin overall, which also reported a rise in price and a drop in sales: 3.3 and 5.7 percent, respectively.

“Home sales continue to lag behind 2013, and while it’s important to remember that 2013 was a strong year for sales, there are a number of other contributing factors that also explain relatively lower sales,” said Steve Lane, chairman of the WRA board of directors, in the housing market report.

He added that available inventories have influenced these changes:

“Inventories are tighter in our metropolitan areas compared to rural areas, and some buyers may be having difficulty finding homes to buy in those markets,” said Lane.

The report noted that metropolitan counties have 7.7 months of available inventory in August, and their sales were down 8.1 percent compared to the year before. Conversely, rural counties have 16.6 months of inventory, and their sales fell less than 0.2 percent.

Price appreciation may also be contributing to the weaker sales. Median prices in Wisconsin have grown by 9.8 percent since August 2012, more than 2.5 times greater than the growth in the general price level over that same period.

“Even though Wisconsin housing remains very affordable in the state, some potential buyers may have gotten priced out of the market over the past year,” said Lane.

“Given that prices were going up so quickly in 2013, it’s encouraging to see these settle down this year,” said Michael Theo, WRA President and CEO, in the WRA’s August press release.

The year-to-date median price appreciation is 2.4 percent, slightly higher than the rate of inflation, which has been between 1.1 and 2.1 percent so far in 2014.

“This has kept our housing more affordable than other parts of the country,” said Theo.