GMAR: Listings down 33% as April home sales slow due to COVID-19 pandemic

Predicts quick rebound 'with minimal damage' after lift of lockdown orders

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Last updated on May 13th, 2020 at 09:05 pm

Home sales in metropolitan Milwaukee were down 9.2% in April relative to April 2019, a slump that the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors says is due to efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic that has spread statewide.

The slowdown was expected, but it wasn’t drastic, GMAR said in its monthly report of metro-area home sales. The housing market has until the outbreak shown only strength, with most months showing year-over-year sales growth despite a recurring shortage of available homes.

Of the four-county metro region, Ozaukee County saw the biggest decline year-over-year with a 14.3% drop in sales. That is followed by Milwaukee County with an 11.9% drop and Waukesha County with a 7.5% decline. Washington County home sales actually increased by 7.5%.

The entire southeastern Wisconsin region saw a 10.4% decline in sales. This is when adding in declines of 29.9% in Walworth County, 10.5% in Racine County and 7.3% in Kenosha County.

“Sales in the other regional counties probably would have been higher were it not for closings having been spread out due to reducing the number of closings per day, thoroughly cleaning offices where closings occur, etc.,” GMAR noted in its report.

While many businesses have shuttered due to state and local stay-at-home orders, home sales have continued because real estate was deemed an “essential” industry. GMAR said realtors have responded to the pandemic by creating safer environments for clients and these efforts have likely impacted sales volumes.

Even so, the interest is still there. GMAR said that brokers reported substantial increases in traffic on their web sites from buyers actively viewing listings virtually, and sellers have asked realtors to continue marketing their home safely.

The extension of stay-at-home orders through late May will “undoubtedly” impact the market further, and may cause buyers and sellers to pause their participation in the market, said GMAR.

“Nonetheless, the overall health of the regional economy and real estate market as the pandemic hit (southeastern) Wisconsin should enable the market to withstand the current shock and resume functioning with minimal damage,” the group wrote.

The average sale price in the metro area was up 8.3%, from $266,922 in April 2019 to $288,948 last month. For the year, average sale prices are up 10.7% from last year.

Listings, meanwhile, were down 33.8% in the metro area and down 35.4% in the region. A lack of listings has plagued the market for several years, said GMAR.

Seasonally adjusted inventory, which shows how many months it would take to sell all the homes already on the market for sale given current demand, was 2.8 months for April. That is lower than the 3 months recorded in March and 3.5 months in April last year.

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Alex Zank
Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.

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