Metro Milwaukee first-quarter home sales up nearly 3%, March sales nearly flat

Sales deeply impacted by lack of inventory

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

The story with the metropolitan Milwaukee housing market has been the lack of inventory, which has been cutting more deeply into home sales.

This is reflected by modest growth for area home sales in March and the first quarter, according to the latest report from the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors.

GMAR reported homes sales in the metro area were up year-over-year by 2.8% in the first quarter of this year. March home sales were up slightly, by 0.8%, over the same month in 2020.

The 3,933 units sold were the most of any first quarter on record for the metro area, which includes Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties. Meanwhile, the 5,193 new listings were the fewest in the first quarter on record, noted GMAR.

Metro-area sales growth was strongest in Washington County in March (11%) and strongest in Milwaukee County in the first quarter (9.4%).

Waukesha County saw a decline in sales growth for both periods. Sales were down 14.4% in March and down 11.1% in the first quarter.

GMAR noted the declining sales were a result of tight inventories. Nearly 70% of Waukesha County home sales were between $200,000 and $500,000.

“If there were more units in that price range, realtors would have sold them,” GMAR stated.

Seasonally adjusted inventory for March was 2.1 months. This number reflects how long it would take for the existing homes on the market to be sold based on current demand.

When subtracting homes that have an active number, March only had about 19 days’ worth of inventory, according to GMAR.

Six months of inventory is considered a balanced market. Anything below that is a seller’s market, and anything above that reflects a buyer’s market.

The four-county metro area experienced a decline in sales for homes priced between $100,000 and $299,000. This was also “simply because of a lack of inventory, not a lack of buyer interest,” GMAR said.

In all, 408 homes in that segment were sold in March, down from the 451 units sold in March 2020.

Home prices rose 11.3% in the first quarter, yet another consequence of high demand and low supply.

The southeastern Wisconsin region, which also includes Kenosha, Racine and Walworth counties, recorded a 2.1% year-over-year rise in home sales in March and a 5.1% increase in the first quarter.

Racine County saw the strongest growth in home sales for the month and quarter. Sales were up 16.7% in Racine County in March. They were up 17.4% in the first quarter.

The average sales price for the southeast region rose 13.4% in the first quarter, led by Walworth County, which recorded a 29.7% year-over-year first quarter rise in sale price.

The average sales price for Walworth County for the quarter was just shy of $425,000. The county is known for its luxurious homes. One transaction not reflected in the first-quarter numbers is the $12.75 million sale of a Lake Geneva mansion. The sale occurred just last week. It was among the highest sale prices ever for a Lake Geneva-area home.

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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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