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Housing slump hitting home

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Ted Sullivan
September 17, 2008
— Despite population growth, Walworth County homes are selling for less money or not selling at all.

Local realtors say it's the worst market they've seen in years, said Mike VanderBunt of the Lakes Area Realtors Association.


"This county has seen inventory this year unlike any other year," he said. "It's history."


The number of houses sold in Walworth County this year has plummeted by 30 percent compared to the same time in 2007, according to Multiple Listing Service statistics.


The median price of homes sold in Walworth County was $188,900 in the second quarter this year, compared to $202,500 in 2007, a 6.7 percent drop, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association.


It was the first decline in eight years.


A soft economy, weak consumer confidence, mortgage company bankruptcies and the subprime mortgage mess all have contributed to the stalled market, VanderBunt said.


At one point, 1,800 homes were on the market, he said.


"Sellers right now are negotiable, and if they're not willing to negotiate, they're not going to sell their home," VanderBunt said.


Employees at title companies and mortgage offices have lost their jobs or reduced their hours, but workers such as electricians and carpenters are still busy, said Grace Hirte of the Lakeland Builders Association.


"Most of our members are staying busy, believe it or not," she said. "They're not flooded with work, but they're still busy."


The housing market will rebound, said Royce DeBow, southeastern Wisconsin's governmental affairs director for the Wisconsin Realtors Association.


And it's not as bad as people think.


"It's not great like it has been for so many years, but it's still good," DeBow said. "The silver lining is that there are some tremendous opportunities. I think you have sellers that are a little more flexible."


The timing is great for buyers, who can have their choice of hundreds of homes, pay less money and get a lower interest rate, VanderBunt said.


"There are so many opportunities out there," he said. "You can really, really get a great price right now. It's a good time to pull the trigger."


Despite the recent doom and gloom, the outlook isn't terrible.


Real estate brokers believe the remainder of this year will be weaker than the second half of 2007, but the market eventually will improve, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association.


"I think things are going to get better," VanderBunt said. "The inventory is so high that it's going to take a little while to catch up, but people are going to jump off the fence and buy properties and invest."



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