Madison Real Estate Watchers Read National Tea Leaves

    tea leaves

     If you try to predict what Madison real estate activity is likely to be based on only our local activity, you soon find what causes statisticians to turn up their noses: the sample size is simply too small to project reliable trends. That’s why serious Madison observers look to the incoming real estate activity stats from Wisconsin and the nation as a whole: and the latest numbers gave them at least two interesting clues.

    At the start of the month, the National Association of Realtors® weighed in with a “sizable jump” in some of the pending home sales numbers. Pending home sales are especially interesting in a predictive sense because they are forward-looking indicators—they measure contract signings that will be finalized in coming weeks or months. The NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index for July notched the second highest reading in over a decade…exceeded only by April’s reading.

    The NAR’s economists continued to fret about the affordability of the listings currently on the market, reflected in the continuing difficulty first-time homebuyers are having being able to find affordable homes in most parts of the country. The “robust demand for single-family starter homes” is as high as it is because many young buyers can’t find what they are looking for at a price point that’s affordable.

    Not all real estate news is as relevant to Madison home or apartment shoppers, though. Last Friday’s news from the New York Times is a good example. It ran the story of one young musician whose quest for an affordable apartment led him to his current digs, which is a closet. Actually, according to the news item, it’s more like a “crawlspace” at 9 feet by 4½ feet. Affordable rent? Yes, for today’s Manhattan—just $450/month.

    The second, more relevant finding came from the researchers at CoreLogic, who dug into the national statistics with enough gusto to emerge with a seldom-mentioned measure: price stability. Madison real estate watchers often read about residential real estate volatility—the gyrations sales and prices go through when financial or political turmoil causes notable fluctuations. Real estate price stability, however, since it’s the exact opposite, is seldom mentioned (probably because it sounds like nothing is happening, which journalists don’t like to write about).

    But the latest finding is news. As CoreLogic’s Sam Khater writes about the year-over-year change in monthly home prices, “the last narrow band of years” that exhibited such stable home prices came “between 1994 and 1997.” The good news is that this period presaged a housing market that was so healthy it helped anchor the whole economy—probably a key reason why 2001’s economic downturn became the mildest post-war recession.

    Here in Madison, the real estate scene continues to reward home shoppers with a host of listings that offer good value—especially with mortgage interest rates still hovering at bargain basement levels. If you decide that now is the right time to find the right house at the right price, it’s also the right time to call me!

    Jen Stauter Kornstedt
    HomeTeam4U-Stark Company Realtors
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