Janesville33.5°

Fourth quarter sees rise in Rock County home sales

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JAMES P. LEUTE
February 12, 2010
— If the fourth quarter of 2009 is any indication, Rock County’s real estate market could be turning a corner.

The Wisconsin Realtors Association reported Thursday that existing home sales in the county in October, November and December were 18.6 percent higher than during the same period in 2008.


Statewide, fourth-quarter sales were 25 percent ahead of those posted a year earlier.


The strong fourth quarter helped salvage the market in 2009, said WRA President William Malkasian.


“In the end, Wisconsin home sales in 2009 were unchanged from 2008, but it was really a tale of two halves,” he said in a news release. “The first half of the year was down significantly compared to 2008, and the second half of the year grew at a very healthy rate.”


In Rock County, real estate agents sold 401 homes in the last three months of 2009. A year earlier, they sold 338.


The median sales price for the quarter was $111,500, down less than 1 percent from the same period in 2008.


For the year, agents sold 1,592 homes in the county, down 3.6 percent from the previous year. The median price of the homes sold slipped 4.2 percent to $114,950.


Malkasian said the fourth-quarter numbers were the result of several factors, including favorable interest rates and the federal first-time homebuyer’s tax credit.


“Mortgage rates remained at historic low levels, just under 5 percent in the fourth quarter, and first-time home buyers were scrambling to get their homes closed when they thought the federal tax credit was expiring at the end of November 2009,” he said. “With sales improving each quarter last year, the general trend for the future is favorable.”


He cautioned, however, that job growth is needed before the economy truly starts to recover and housing markets improve substantially.


State median home prices fell 7.7 percent to $143,000 in 2009 compared to 2008. That’s in line with the Midwest region, where median single-family home prices fell 5.3 percent over the year, and it’s better than the U.S. decline of 11.9 percent.


“We do appear to be turning the corner in the state, with healthy inventories and moderating prices,” John Flor, chairman of the WRA’s board of directors, said in the release. “The extension of the federal first-time home buyer’s tax credit and the expansion to include tax credits for existing homeowners should help entice buyers off the fence and into the market.”


The tax credits can only be claimed on sales with contracts by the end of April and closings by the end of June.



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