The Wisconsin residential home sales market set an all-time high for the third quarter, according to the most recent analysis of statewide existing-home sales conducted by the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

Sales of existing homes in Wisconsin during the third quarter totaled an estimated record 30,700 units, a 0.4 percent increase over the third-quarter sales from last year.

“The strong real estate market can be attributed to a combination of low interest rates and an improving jobs market in the state,” said WRA Chairman Kitty Jebwabny. “With 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaging below 6 percent over the quarter, and with the statewide unemployment rate ranging from 4.7 percent-5 percent over the period, consumer demand remained solid in the state,” she said.

The figures on regional sales volume derived from Multiple Listing Service data for Wisconsin counties were up in all but one region. Growth rates for third quarter 2004 over third quarter 2003 were very strong in the Central region (+8.4 percent), and they were more modest (1.9 percent – 3.5 percent) in the Northeast, Southeast, and North regions. The South Central region was flat, and West was the only region experiencing a decline (-7.9 percent) in the third quarter as compared to the same quarter in 2003.

Home sales growth was strongest in the Central region of the state (+8.4 percent) with nearly all counties that report home sales experiencing growth during the last year. Several counties showed double-digit growth, including Waushara County (+31.3 percent), Clark County (+23.8 percent) and Wood County (+21.6 percent).

The Northeast region also recorded solid growth, with existing-home sales up 5.3 percent in the third quarter of this year, as compared to the same quarter in 2003. Within the region however, the picture was mixed, with some counties up substantially, and other experiencing decline. The counties with the strongest growth were Winnebago County (+28.8 percent) and Fond du Lac County (+28.1 percent), both of which had solid volume. Brown County’s sales, however, were down 7.9 percent; Green Lake County off its third quarter 2003 pace by 15 percent and Menominee County down 33.3 percent (albeit on volume below 10 units).

The Northern region was up 2.6 percent in Q3 2004 as compared to Q3 2003. Forest County nearly tripled its volume, growing from seven units sold in Q3 2003 to 26 units in Q3 2004. There were a number of other counties that experienced double-digit growth during the quarter, including the Ashland/Bayfield counties (+48.4 percent) which are combined for reporting purposes; Sawyer county (+35.1 percent), Burnett county (+21.7 percent), Rusk county (+20.8 percent); Price county (+18.2 percent); Taylor county (+15.8 percent) and Douglas County (+12.1 percent).

Home sales in the Southeast region of the state were up 1.9 percent in the third quarter of 2004 as compared to that same quarter last year. The strongest growth was seen in Racine County, where home sales increased 9.7 percent in quarter-over-quarter sales. Also solid was the most populous county in the state, Milwaukee County, which grew 5.6 percent.

While home sales within the South Central region were basically unchanged (+0.1 percent) in the third quarter of 2004 as compared to the third quarter of 2003, several counties experienced substantial growth. Up by a factor of two to three were Richland (+240 percent) and Lafayette (+133 percent) counties, although both counties had fewer than 10 sales in Q3 2003. However, Grant County saw it’s sales rise 27.1 percent, and Iowa County was up 21.7 percent, with both counties having more than 20 sales in the third quarter of last year.

The only region to experience a substantial reduction in sales volume in Q3 2004 as compared to Q3 2003 was the Western region, which fell 7.9 percent. As was the case in most other regions, home sales rose in some counties, and fell in others. For example, existing-home sales more than doubled (on single-digit volumes) in Vernon County (+167 percent), and they were up 14 percent in Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau counties, which are combined for reporting purposes. Chippewa County was up 2.1 percent on solid volume. However, Dunn County was down slightly (-1.5 percent), and both Eau Claire (-5 percent) and LaCrosse (-6.3 percent) were down modestly on volume in the neighborhood of 400 units in Q3 2003. Two of the suburban counties around Minneapolis, which have been red-hot in recent years, finally moderated somewhat. Specifically, Pierce County fell 9.3 percent, and St. Croix County declined 19.7 percent, falling by 100 units.

Median housing prices rose in all six regions of the state when comparing third-quarter figures with the same quarter last year, with median home-price appreciation ranging in the 1.3 percent-1.8 percent in the North, Northeast and Western regions of the state to the 4.3 percent-8.7 percent range in the Southeast, South Central, and Central regions.  

The Southeast region saw median housing prices rise 8.7 percent to $168,000 in the third quarter of 2004 as compared to Q4 2003. The South Central region grew 7.3 percent to $171,700 in the third quarter. Also experiencing solid median price growth in the third quarter was the Central region, which increased prices 4.3 percent to $118,200.

Median prices in the Western region were up by 1.8 percent to $148,300, while prices grew at 1.6 percent to $140,000 in the Northern region of the state. Median sales prices grew 1.3 percent to $126,200 in the Northeastern region of the state.

The Wisconsin Realtors Association is one of the largest trade associations in the state, representing more than 17,000 real estate brokers, sales people and affiliates statewide.

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