January home sales up in WisconsinJanuary is often the slowest time of year for the home sales, but a year-to-year increase last month could be a good sign for the lagging housing market, experts say.
By: By Patrick B. Anderson, La Crosse Tribune, Wis., Superior Telegram
January is often the slowest time of year for the home sales, but a year-to-year increase last month could be a good sign for the lagging housing market, experts say.
Home sales in western Wisconsin surged in December and continued that trend last month with a 10.3 percent increase from January 2011, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association.
"I think it's a positive sign," said David Clark a professor of economics at Marquette University who consults for WRA. "We're looking at these numbers and saying yeah, there is an indication that most areas are experiencing some modest to solid growth."
Statewide, January home sales rose nearly 11 percent for Wisconsin, boosted by a 22.8 percent increase in activity in the northeastern part of the state. Meanwhile, the median price of a home in Wisconsin dipped from $128,508 to $119,500.
The overall drop in home price is a sign that a so-called "buyer's market" persists, but the decline is the exception to a number of otherwise positive signs, Clark said.
A 16.4 percent drop in the number of new listings and a slight dip in statewide inventory, from 13.2 months worth to 11.8 months worth, are both signs that the market is balancing out, Clark said.
However, there are still far more homes for sale than buyers in Wisconsin, and prices are still lower than they were before the recession. Any real improvement to the housing industry will depend on the state's ability to add jobs, Clark said.
Statewide, job growth is relatively flat.
The state experienced a slight bump in jobs year-to-year, despite losing 22,000 jobs in December, according to numbers from the Department of Workforce Development that are not seasonally adjusted.
However there are signs locally that things are improving. La Crosse's 5.1 unemployment rate was the second lowest in the state in December, after Madison.
So far, that's not enough to get the housing market swinging.
"All in all, it's a clear buyer's market," Clark said.
(c)2012 the La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wis.)
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