Janesville73.4°

Housing markets are steady in Milton, Edgerton

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Stacy Vogel
May 12, 2008
— Playing your music as loud as you want.

Painting your room any color that catches your fancy.


Knowing you’re not throwing money away on rent.


Those are the factors that encouraged Melissa Williams and her boyfriend Bryan Robbins to buy a brand-new house in Edgerton.


The housing market “crisis” didn’t even enter their thinking, Williams said.


“We just looked at our finances and decided we could definitely do it, and that was it,” the 23-year-old said.


Paula Carrier, owner of Best Realty, points to people such as Williams and Robbins when she says the Edgerton housing market is steady.


“Media in general painted this picture that said, ‘Don’t buy, prices are still bottoming out,’” Carrier said. “They’re not here.”


National media reports have offered a dour view of the housing market: Record numbers of homes in foreclosure, housing prices plunging, and people having trouble getting credit and selling their homes.


But that’s not the case in Wisconsin, especially in small communities, said Morris Davis, a professor of real estate at UW-Madison’s Wisconsin School of Business.


Housing prices are dropping quickly in places such as California, Florida and Nevada because they rose too quickly there, Davis said.


“The fact is, that the boom that we had in small towns in Wisconsin is just nothing like the boom that was experienced in many places in the country,” he said. “In small communities, house prices just aren’t going to fall that much.”


The Edgerton area saw a 6 percent decline in the average home-selling price in 2007, but Carrier believes that’s because many buyers were buying their first homes and looking for less expensive options.


Young adults, such as Williams and Robbins, are taking advantage of low interest rates, she said.


“Why would you wait until the rates are high and the prices are high?” she asked.


The number of homes sold in the Edgerton School District dropped 8 percent in 2007.


Sellers are waiting a little longer to unload their homes—three to six months now as opposed to 30 days a few years ago—but the wait is nowhere near what it was in the mid-1980s, Carrier said. Then, homeowners expected to wait at least a year to sell their homes.


Andy Weberpal, a Realtor with Century 21 Affiliated, sees a good balance among buyers and sellers in Milton, he said. He works out of Janesville but deals with many properties in the Milton area.


“(In) Milton in particular, the market has been decent lately,” he said. “It’s not outstanding, it’s not what it was a couple of years ago, but there has been very good activity.”


The number of home sales dropped from 90 to 81 in the city of Milton in 2007, but the average selling price rose more than 1 percent.


Weberpal contrasted the Milton market with the Janesville one, which has a lot of properties for sale, he said.


Smaller communities don’t see the fluctuations of urban areas because there are fewer homes to buy and sell, he said.


“(Milton) is a smaller community, and it doesn’t take a big increase in demand to tighten up supply there,” he said.


But even though nationwide housing problems aren’t having a big effect on local housing markets, they can affect the economy of small communities, Davis said.


“When prices fall nationally, consumers spend less, and that means sales of all products, or at least some products, fall,” he said.


As sales fall, wages drop, and unemployment rises everywhere, Davis said.


“That’s the sense in which the small towns of Wisconsin are vulnerable,” he said.


Fulton Square project

Paula Carrier isn’t worried about nationwide housing problems affecting sales of condos in Edgerton’s Fulton Square project.


The $6.1 million project is on target to be completed in August or soon after, Carrier said. It will include 26 condominiums and 16,000 square feet of retail space.


Carrier, owner of Best Realty, and Chris Sweeney, broker with Pat’s Realty, are selling the condos for Keller Development of Madison.


No one has bought a condo yet, but Carrier and Sweeney have heard plenty of interest, especially from “snowbirds” who spend summers in Wisconsin and winters down South, they said.


Carrier believes the sales will start once the building gets closer to being finished, she said. Right now, it’s just a wood frame.


“We’re small, midtown U.S.A., and we need to touch it, we need to see it” before we buy, Carrier said.


Prices for the condos range from $112,000 to $165,000, Carrier said. The developer is targeting “empty-nesters,” professionals and childless couples.


Carrier and Sweeney plan to start hosting monthly forums this month to update residents on the project, Carrier said.


“It’s going to make our downtown just sparkle,” she said.



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