Rock County home sales, prices increase

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Jim Leute
Sunday, April 27, 2014

JANESVILLE—Despite challenging weather, local realtors experienced something few of their statewide colleagues did in the first quarter of 2014: increases in both the number of existing homes sold and the prices they commanded.

“We did very well despite the cold, snow and freezing weather,” said Jim Zanton, sales director for Shorewest Realtors in Janesville and president of the Rock-Green Realtors Association. “Things would have been a lot higher if we didn't have the weather we had.”

According to the South Central Wisconsin Multiple Listing Service, first-quarter sales in Rock County were up 3.4 percent compared to the first three months of 2013. The average price of each home sold was $112,254, more than 5 percent ahead of the average price from the same period in 2013.

The service said quarterly sales for its entire service area were down 5.1 percent, while the average price improved just 1.6 percent.

The Wisconsin Realtors Association reported slightly different numbers, but the pattern was the same.

Rock County sales were up 1.1 percent, and median prices were up 11.1 percent, the association reported. Around the state, quarterly sales were down 8.5 percent, and median prices were up 4.2 percent, it said.

Neither Zanton nor Randy Borman, team leader for the Janesville, Milton and Evansville offices of Century 21 Affiliated, can put a finger on why the local market outperformed so many others.

Zanton said it could be that Rock County's economic rebound, particularly in the housing market, has been behind other markets. Perhaps, he said, local buyers are now doing what buyers in other markets did a quarter or two ago.

Borman said it could be that buyers sensed increases in mortgage rates and finally pulled the trigger on purchases they'd put off for months.

“Our agents say people are getting off the sidelines, and there have been a lot of local move-ups, maybe from a first home to a second home,” Borman said. “Most of the activity started before the holidays and seemed to carry over to the first quarter.

“We're seeing in our company, which covers southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, that Rock County is about the only market that did well. Rock County is kind of an anomaly.”

Steve Lane, chairman of the Wisconsin Realtors Association, said spring selling is off to a slow start statewide.

“We are hopeful that the spring thaw will jumpstart the selling season that traditionally gains momentum in the second quarter,” he said.

Second-quarter sales are a significant indicator for the overall real estate market, as nearly a third of all homes sold in Wisconsin sell from April through June.

Locally, Zanton said April sales are off to a “fantastic” start.

“We've got lots and lots of showings and closings scheduled,” he said. “Interest rates are still really good, and we're seeing sales in price ranges across the board.”

Mike Theo, the WRA's president and CEO, said recent price gains are encouraging.

“Sellers love to see prices moving up quickly, but moderate price growth is really preferable,” he said, adding that buyers need to keep increases in perspective because mortgage interest rates are still low by historical standards.

Zanton added that the Rock County market has continued to benefit from fewer distressed properties that offer competition to sellers.

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