Elements stall area real estate market
Home sales plunge 10.1% in February; blamed on snow, bitter cold

By Dwayne Butler - Freeman Staff

Feb. 11, 2014

WAUKESHA - Persistent snow and bitterly cold temperatures in February dropped the Milwaukee area real estate market into a deep freeze.

Home sales for the four-county region were down 10.1 percent from the same month a year ago, according to statistics released Monday by the Metropolitan Listing Service, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors. The region, which includes Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties, sold 863 homes in February compared with 960 in February 2013.

“A strong dynamic held things up - the weather,” said Scott Bush, vice president of operations with the GMAR. “That pretty much attributed to a lot of the slowdown.”

Waukesha County sold 210 homes in February compared with 227 homes in February 2013, a 7.5 percent decline. Milwaukee County sold 519 homes in February 2014, a decline of 9.6 percent; Washington County sold 86 homes, a decline of 9.5 percent; and Ozaukee County sold 48 homes and had the biggest drop of  the four counties, at 25 percent.

“A decrease in sales is not unusual in the winter months, and given the numerous polar vortexes that have descended upon the market, buyers have decided to search online before going out," GMAR President Mike Ruzicka said in a statement.

On a brighter note, sales in the four-county region remained ahead of the February 2012 pace by 4.6 percent, and its level was on par with what the market experienced before the Great Recession began. Milwaukee (5.3 percent), Ozaukee (14.3 percent) and Washington counties (26.5 percent) showed positive numbers in February 2014 compared with the same month two years ago, while Waukesha County was down 5.4 percent.

“The (February) numbers are a little deceiving, because while it shows we were down (from February 2013), we’re certainly better than two years ago,” Bush said.

Another bright spot was that listings placed on the market in February increased by 1.7 percent, coming off a 1.5 percent decrease in January inventory levels.

The February inventory level was at 6.13 months, slightly above January’s 6.0-month level. However, the GMAR pointed out that if the 1,329 listings with an active offer are subtracted from current listings of 7,788, the inventory level drops to a very tight 4.4 months. That’s slightly ahead of 4.3 months the area market saw in January.

Waukesha County listed 496 homes in February, a 9.5 percent drop from February 2013, and Washington County was down 10.1 percent. Ozaukee County (9.6 percent) and Milwaukee County (8.5 percent) were on the plus side.

As the market moves into spring, the GMAR expects favorable interest rates, home prices, available listings and active buyers to fuel a robust market.

“We expect increases in inventory with improved weather. I’m looking forward to a good spring,” Bush said.


Email: dbutler@conleynet.com