Wisconsin housing market takeaways: Improved inventory bodes well for beleaguered buyers

MADISON – Wisconsin’s housing market remains firmly tilted in sellers’ favor, but August home sales data suggests buyers might start to see a few more homes for sale.

The inventory of existing homes listed for sale in Wisconsin increased in August for the second straight month, according to housing market data the Wisconsin Realtors Association released Thursday. Inventory increased from 3.3 months in July to 3.4 months in August, a 13% increase over August 2022.

New listings added to the market, a key way to replenish inventory, were declining by double-digit percentages for much of the last year. But WRA data showed new listings only dropped 2.9% in August, compared to 17.7% in July.

“We’ve been accustomed to year-over-year reductions in new listings that exceed 20%, so hopefully this signalsa turning point in our inventory problems,” said Joe Horning, chair of WRA’s board, in a media release.

The general lack of inventory continued to depress existing home sales across the state in August. WRA reported 6,889 existing home sales in August, an 18.3% drop compared to August 2022. The statewide median purchase price remained at $300,000, up 10% compared to August 2022.

Diane Campshure-Walcyzk, a Realtor with Resource One Realty in Green Bay, said the inventory uptick hasn’t made a noticeable impact in the Green Bay area yet, but that conditions buyers face have begun to change. She said competition for homes has eased and she’s calling some buyers who had left the market.

“The nice thing is you’re not competing with 10 or 20 offers, but three or four or six. It’s definitely a positive for buyers, if there is a positive,” Campshure-Walcyzk said, noting conditions remain challenging for buyers.

Here’s more takeaways from Wisconsin’s late-summer housing market.

A home for sale on Green Bay's west side in September 2023.

A closer look at inventory: Major increases in Milwaukee, Appleton and Wausau

Inventory measures how many months it would take to sell every home in a given market. Six months of inventory is considered a balanced market. Less than six months inventory favors sellers; more than six months inventory favors buyers.

Wisconsin and most of its metro areas remain solid seller’s markets.

The lack of inventory hit urban and suburban areas hardest, but in August almost every metro area in the state saw inventories increase, often by double-digit percentages.

Marathon County, where Wausau is located, saw inventory increase to 3.5 months, a 34.6% increase, largest among metro areas. Outagamie County, home to Appleton, saw inventory increase to 3.2 months, up 33%. Milwaukee County saw inventory increase to 3 months, a 25% increase.

What’s happening with mortgage interest rates?

The average interest rate for 15- and 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages declined slightly in September after reaching their highest levels in a year in August.

The average interest rate on 15- and 30-year fixed-rate mortgages on Sept. 14 were 6.51% and 7.18%, respectively, according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

For comparison, one year ago, the 15-year rate was 5.44% and the 30-year rate 6.29%. Both rates were rising.

Rising interest rates increase the costs homebuyers pay to borrow money. The more they pay in interest, the less they can afford to pay for the house itself.

Campshure-Walczyk said rates have stabilized in the last month, which gives buyers some certainty about what they can afford, while Michael Theo, WRA’s president and CEO, said current rates continue to put a strain on affordability.

“Hopefully we see rates begin to fall as we move out of the peak season for home sales,” Theo said in a media release.

A home for sale on Green Bay's west side in September 2023.

8 Wisconsin counties where median home sale prices are lower than the state average

The median purchase price for a home in Wisconsin has remained at $300,000 in August, up 10% from August 2022.

But there were six metro areas where the median purchase price remains below $300,000:

  • Outagamie County (Appleton): $286,000
  • Marathon County (Wausau): $256,500
  • Winnebago County (Oshkosh/Neenah): $257,500
  • Portage County (Stevens Point): $266,250
  • Sheboygan County: $251,000
  • Milwaukee County: $250,000
  • Rock County (Beloit/Janesville): $250,000
  • Fond du Lac County: $240,000

Buyers will find home prices continue to rise in Green Bay, Appleton, Madison

The August home sales data highlights the ongoing lack of homes in price ranges more families can afford.

Wisconsin homes which sold for less than $350,000 accounted for 67% of all homes sold in the last 12 months. But homes priced below $350,000 accounted for about 54% of new listings. While $500,000+ homes accounted for only 13% of homes sold in the last 12 months, they account for more than 23% of new listings.

Realtor.com median list price data indicates the statewide median list price has declined slightly in August, from $375,000 to $367,000, but that median list prices in Madison, Appleton and Green Bay metro areas continued to climb in August.

Eau Claire, Wausau among Realtor.com’s 20 hottest U.S. housing markets

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If it seems to you like the state’s housing market is on fire, you would be right.

Realtor.com this summer looked at how fast homes are selling and the volume of attention homes get to rank the hottest housing markets among the 300 largest metro areas in the United States. The site ranked 10 Wisconsin metro areas; all but two were among the 50 hottest housing markets.

Besides the ranking, Realtor.com also gauged whether each market was heating up or cooling down compared to the prior month and the prior year.

The data shows states around the Great Lakes and northeast regions remain the hottest housing markets while metro areas in the South and Pacific Northwest showed more signs of cooling.

Eau Claire, 11th, and Wausau, 15th, both cracked the top 20, followed by Beloit-Janesville 22nd, Racine 32nd, Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis 38th, Green Bay 43rd, Oshkosh-Neenah 45th and Appleton 47th.

Contact Jeff Bollier at (920) 431-8387 or[email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @JeffBollier.

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