Strong February housing sales pushed what are typically the three slowest months of the year into record territory, according to the most recent analysis of the existing home market by the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association (WRA). February 2021 sales increased 5.5% compared to February 2020, which was the last month before the recession began. Inventories continued to be very tight, which has led to a sustained period of very strong price appreciation. The median price rose to $215,000 in February, which is 13.2% higher than 12 months earlier. In fact, median prices have grown at an annual rate of 9.7% or higher each month since July of last year.
This is the strongest seller’s market on record, and it pushed prices up sharply in February,” said WRA President & CEO Michael Theo. The inventory problem shows no sign of abating. The state had just 2.1 months of available supply in February, which is the second straight month of record-low inventory levels. “Every price range of homes, every region of the state, and every type of county, from the most urban to the most rural, have very strong seller’s markets,” said Theo.
“One bright spot has been the new construction market,” said Theo. A review of Wisconsin single-family permit data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau shows an increase of 13.7% in 2020 compared to 2019, and housing permits were up 19% in January compared to 12 months earlier. The number of permits is a reliable predictor of housing starts. “Most buyers who build a new home are trading up from an existing home, so the strong seller’s market is helping to fuel the new home market,” said Theo. Since the average time from a housing start to completion is 7.4 months in the Midwest, the increased permit activity in 2020 should help mitigate the supply problem in 2021. “We still need to see more inventory of existing homes, but this is a good sign going into the peak sales season,” he said.