Metro Milwaukee home sales drop 4 percent in March
First time sales decrease in 14 months; lack of inventory cited

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

April 13, 2016

A house for sale at the corner of northwest Barstow Street and Buena Vista Avenue.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

According to data released Tuesday by the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors, 1,461 homes sold in March compared to 1,522 in March 2015 for Waukesha, Washington, Ozaukee and Milwaukee counties. Compared to March 2014, sales were up 20.5 in March 2016.

Despite the decline in sales, March was the second strongest March in nine years, according to the GMAR.

However, Washington County bucked the regional trend and was up 14.9 percent, led by strong sales in West Bend, according to the data.

In Waukesha County, sales declined 6.9 percent in March, while Milwaukee County went down 3.4 percent and Ozaukee County tumbled 22.5 percent.

During the first quarter of 2016, the metro Milwaukee home sales market had 3,375 total sales, compared to 3,272 in 2015, a 3.1 percent increase.

“The discrepancy between the March and first quarter sales totals appears to be due to a lack of inventory. In January and February there were barely enough listings to meet the demands of buyers. However, in March there were even more buyers searching, but not nearly enough homes available to them. Their searches took longer and stretched out a few more weeks, resulting in fewer sales in the month,” according to the report prepared by GMAR President Mike Ruzicka.

“Anecdotal evidence shows that listings are on the rise for April. Brokers are reporting that more sellers are contacting them about listing their homes in the upcoming spring/summer market in contrast to last year.”

Both Milwaukee and Washington counties experienced an increase in home sales during the first quarter. Milwaukee County’s went up by 3.3 percent and Washington County saw a 17.4 percent uptick. Waukesha County sales during the first quarter declined by 0.2 percent and Ozaukee County dropped 3.9 percent.

According to the GMAR, March was the eighth consecutive month of decreased listings at minus 7.5 percent. Each month in the first quarter saw strong decreases in year-over-year listings (minus 2.6 percent in January, minus 7 percent in February).

The seasonally adjusted inventory level for March was 5.5 months, up slightly from February’s 5-month level. The seasonally adjusted level was 7.1 months a year ago for March 2015.

Generally, it’s believed a six-month seasonally adjusted inventory level points to a “balanced” market.

Home prices continue to increase

Prices for homes in the metro Milwaukee area also continue to increase due to the lack of inventory.

“All four metropolitan counties saw healthy double-digit price increases in the first quarter. Milwaukee County had the most communities with price increases with 18 of 19 communities in positive territory,” according to the report.

Ozaukee County sale price increased by 13 percent compared to the first quarter of 2015. Milwaukee County sale price increased by 11 percent and both Washington and Waukesha counties saw an increase of 7 percent during the first quarter.

“While increasing prices are a welcome condition for the market, sellers should not get carried away thinking their property will sell ‘as is’ as was often the case in the pre-recession market. Properties must be in good condition, priced correctly for their neighborhood and marketed accurately to capture top dollar,” reads the report.

Ruzicka said in his report that while the metropolitan Milwaukee market is starting its fourth year of post-recession sales, the market has not recovered completely