MADISON - Despite improving inventories over the last two months, housing supply remains tight in the state, which kept July home sales down and drove median prices up, according to the most recent analysis of the existing home market by the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

Home sales slipped 3.1 percent in July relative to July 2017, and median prices rose 7.5 percent over that same period to $192,900.

The year-to-date data paint a similar picture: Home sales for the first seven months of 2018 were 3.2 percent lower than sales between January and July last year, and median prices were 7.5 percent higher.

In Douglas County, the median sale price in July was $172,500 - a 26.9 percent increase from one year ago. A total of 61 homes were sold, down from 68 in July 2017. The county had six months of inventory, up 42.9 percent from the same month last year.

An increase in July home listings improved statewide inventory levels to 3.4 percent above the level from July 2017. Likewise, the total number of homes available for sale improved substantially.

Total listings, which include those that have been on the market for over a month, rose 21.2 percent to nearly 33,000 units in July. While available inventory has improved from four months in July 2017 to 4.9 months in July 2018, the statewide market remains a solid seller's market as indicated by available supply well below the benchmark of six months that signals a market that is balanced.

"It's good to see more homes being listed on the market, but demand remains very strong, so homes don't stay on the market for very long," WRA Chairman Peter Sveum said.

Housing demand depends on labor market opportunities, and Sveum pointed to near-record-low unemployment rates as evidence of the state's strong economy and the strong demand for housing in Wisconsin.

The state unemployment rate held at 2.9 percent for the second straight month, which is only slightly higher than the record-low 2.8 percent rate seen earlier in the spring. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has remained below 3 percent for each of the past six months.

The national economy is considered to be at full employment, but the U.S. unemployment rate is 3.9 percent, a full percentage point higher than Wisconsin.