Real estate declines easing in Rock County
The good news, according to real estate officials, is that the recent declines are much better than they were a year ago.
The Wisconsin Realtors Association reported that second-quarter sales of homes in Rock County fell 6.8 percent when compared with the second quarter of 2008.
Median sales prices were down 4 percent to $118,000, the lowest level seen in Rock County since the second quarter of 2004.
On a statewide basis, median sales prices were down nearly 10 percent. Real estate professionals said the large number of starter and less-expensive homes purchased caused the drop.
“These data need to be taken with a grain of salt because lower priced homes are moving more briskly than higher priced homes, thus skewing the median price downward,” said Bill Malkasian, the association’s president.
Malkasian said a federal housing program qualifies first-time buyers for up to $8,000 in tax credit on their purchase.
“This is a strong enticement for first-time buyers who typically buy lower cost starter homes, but it also brings down the state median price,” Malkasian said.
Around the state, sales of existing homes dropped 10.5 percent in the second quarter, and real estate agents were encouraged that the decline was much more moderate than the 19.2 percent drop from the second quarter of 2007 to 2008.
“I get needled a lot about whether this is really good news when we use phrases such as ‘slowing the decline,’ ‘leveling out’ and ‘hitting bottom,’” Malkasian said. “But it is good news.”
Malkasian said that while the Wisconsin housing market has suffered, it hasn’t experienced the extreme highs and lows of major markets in other parts of the country.
“And in Wisconsin, real estate is so very, very local,” he said. “Janesville is dealing with a plant closing that Minocqua, St. Croix Falls and Door County isn’t dealing with.”
Malkasian said there’s optimism that the housing slump has neared its bottom.
“There are a lot of tire kickers out there, and there have been a lot of accepted offers,” he said. “The struggle is getting the buyer qualified because credit has become so tight. Holding a deal together is a real challenge.
“Sellers realize that their house probably isn’t worth as much as they thought and buyers know it. Buyers today are where the sellers were three years ago.”