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Monday, August 21, 2017

Limited Inventories Constrain Home Sales in Wisconsin and Drive Up Prices in July

MADISON. — The shrinking inventory of existing homes kept sales below last July and drove median prices to record levels, according to the most recent analysis of the existing home market by the Wisconsin Realtors Association (WRA).

The July sales of existing homes dropped for the second straight year, falling 5.0 percent compared to July 2016 and falling 7.5 percent relative to July 2015. Median prices in July increased 5.9 percent to $180,000 compared to July 2016,the highest recorded July price since the WRA recalibrated its data collection methodology in 2005. Home prices bottomed out in 2011 at $140,000 and have since steadily increased 28.5 percent.

“Low unemployment rates and relatively low mortgage rates continue to fuel the demand side of the housing market, but inventory constraints have kept our sales down,” said WRA board chairman Erik Sjowall.

Locally, median housing prices ($233,300) and sales (174) were up in St. Croix County from this time last year. But they have declined in Pierce County ($180,000 compared to $211,500 in price and 43 sales compared to 74 in July 2016)  and Pepin County as well (median price $79,450 in July 2017 compared to $175,000 in 2016 and 12 sales to 14 sales a year ago).

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the state unemployment rate stood at 3.2 percent in July, down a full percent from July 2016, and for the second straight month, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate was below four percent.

“With all the talk of the Federal Reserve increasing interest rates, the 30-year rate is only about a half
percent above its lowest point in late 2011,” said Sjowall. “Realtors would be selling a lot more homes if inventories were growing, but we’re seeing just the opposite,” he said.

Inventories are 13.8 percent lower than July of last year and 45 percent below July 2011 where they peaked at nearly 72,000 homes available
for sale.

“With new listings flat and just 5.8 months of available supply, there is no relief on the horizon,”
Sjowall said.

“Tight supply and strong demand is a recipe for price pressure, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing in the state,” said Michael Theo, WRA President and CEO. He pointed out that this phenomenon is not unique to Wisconsin, with the National Association of Realtor reporting that the median price in the second quarter of 2017 was 6.2 percent higher than that same quarter in 2016.

“Remarkably, our housing continues to be affordable, but it’s been slipping,” said Theo.

The Wisconsin Housing Affordability Index shows the fraction of the median-priced home that a qualified buyer with a 20 percent down payment and a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage can afford to buy, assuming the buyer earns the median family income in the state. The index stood at 211 in July, which means that buyer can afford 211 percent of the median-priced home. By
comparison, the index was at 225 in July 2016.

“Income has been growing over the last year but not enough to offset the slight rise in mortgage rates and more substantial increase in prices,” said Theo.

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