2014 February Home Sales Report

Freezing Weather Dampens Home Sales but Prices Rise

Date: March 17, 2014

MADISON, Wis. – For the second straight month, home sales dropped as Wisconsin recorded its coldest winter in decades according to an analysis of February housing market activity released by the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association (WRA). Existing home sales dropped 10.1 percent relative to February 2013; however median prices actually increased substantially, rising 7.4 percent to $130,000 over the same 12 month period.

Historically, February accounts for just 5.6 percent of total annual sales in a normal year, whereas a typical summer month accounts for between 10.2 percent and 11.5 percent of annual sales. “We live in Wisconsin. We expect slow sales in February” said Steve Lane, Chairman of the WRA board of directors. “But we broke many records for cold temperatures this winter, so it’s not surprising this year’s February sales were off the 2013 pace,” he said. Lane also noted rising prices and interest rates also impacted the market. “Weather extremes weren’t the only thing that conspired to dampen sales,” Lane said. “Median prices have grown consistently since March of 2012 and mortgage interest rates have been climbing and are now almost a full percentage point higher than this time last year,” he said.

Sales dropped in every part of the state, with the South central, Central and Northeast regions falling between 5.2 percent and 9 percent in February relative to the same month last year. The West region was down 11 percent and the Southeast region fell 12 percent. Finally, the North was especially hard-hit with a reduction of 16.3 percent. “The decline in sales in the North is certainly understandable given their snow totals and bitter cold temperatures this year,” said Lane.

The median price rose to $130,000 in February, which is up 7.4 percent compared to February 2013. Median prices have increased in all but one month over the last two years. “It’s good to see prices growing, but we hope to see a moderation in the rate of median price appreciation,” said Michael Theo, WRA President and CEO. He noted that although this increase in median prices was very similar to the 7.2 percent increase for all of 2013, the fourth quarter of 2013 saw a median price increase of 5.7 percent and January median prices rose just 2.4 percent relative to January 2013.

“It’s important to remind buyers that Wisconsin housing remains very affordable even in light of these recent price increases,” said Theo. The Wisconsin Housing Affordability Index shows the percent of the median-priced home that the household with median family income can afford to buy assuming that borrower has a 20 percent down payment and is financing at current mortgage rates. The Wisconsin index stood at 245 in February, which indicates strong affordability, even though it slipped from the peak level of 294 seen in February 2013.

Theo also pointed out that even though the national economy grew at a less-than-robust pace, with real GDP up just 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, the Wisconsin labor market continued to make modest improvements. The state added approximately 27,600 additional jobs between January 2013 and January 2014, and the unemployment rate dropped a full percent to 6.1 percent over that same period, according to the latest data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Although the housing market has definitely tightened over the last year with declining inventories and higher prices, excellent opportunities still exist for buyers and an experienced REALTOR® can help you find the best value in this market,” said Theo.

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