Wisconsin's existing home sales slipped in February even as prices continued to grow at well above the rate of inflation. Home sales fell 2.6 percent in February 2017 relative to February 2016, and the median price rose 6.1 percent to $154,900 over that same period. In contrast, the annual inflation rate stood at 2.5 percent in January, the most recent month available.
"We expected stronger sales given the strength of the economy and relatively low mortgage rates," said Erik Sjowall, WRA board chairman. The statewide unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent in January, which puts it at the lowest level since December 2000, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages were in the low 4 percent range for the first two months of the year, yet sales fell short of 2016 February levels in most regions in the state. The last two months have been the tightest inventories on record.
Remarkably, housing remains quite affordable, but that affordability is likely to fall further if mortgage rates increase as expected. Mortgage rates dropped to 3.44 percent in July of last year but have moved up nearly three quarters of a percent to 4.17 percent in February. "Inflation has definitely accelerated," said WRA president and CEO Michael Theo. The annual pace of inflation has more than doubled from around 1 percent for the first seven months of 2016 to an annual rate of 2.5 percent in January 2017. "We've been lucky to have low mortgage rates and modest improvements in income to help offset rising prices, but affordability will almost certainly suffer when the cost of credit increases," he said. "The key to success for buyers in this market is to work with a REALTOR, and be prepared to move quickly when the right opportunity presents itself," said Theo.
Economic gains have sparked confidence in home buying and selling, with 80 percent of those surveyed in the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Housing Opportunities and Market Experience HOME survey believing now is a good time to buy and 69 percent believing now is a good time to sell, an outlook carried over from optimism about the broader economy. A record 62 percent of those surveyed believe the economy is improving, with respondents in the Midwest exuding the most positivity.
Re-Think the Front Door
The front door should look well-kept and attractive. The cheapest option is to repaint it, and people are getting more adventurous with color choices for doors. Contrast is good, and some homes benefit from brighter colors.
For just a few more dollars, replace corroded hardware—knobs, kickplate, etc.
Replacing the entire door might cost you or your client $500 or more, but if the door will affect the value of the home, peruse the latest new styles.
If you really want a big change, consider adding an arched doorway, windows on either side or expanding to a double-door. Ironically, one new trend is to go old and ornate.
Light the Way
New fixtures are inexpensive and can usually be owner-installed. Plus, LEDs provide more lumens with less power, resulting in brighter entryways while saving on electricity.
Install Stone Veneer
No doubt about it, stone veneer is an up-and-coming trend for home upgrades. Once installed, stone veneer is nearly indistinguishable from full stonework. The key difference is cost and ease of installation. Stonework speaks to craftsmanship, and veneer gives your home this expensive look for less. Plus,
Refinish Sidewalks and Driveways
Just as the upscale look of stone upgrades exterior walls, stone or brick makes a huge improvement to unsightly cracked concrete walks and drives. Trims can be a do-it-yourself project requiring minimal skill, effort and cost.
Add Color to Landscaping
Manicure the lawn and hedges and add dots of color to lift your yard to a higher level. Bulbs, shrubs, borders, fencing and mulch are all things to consider.
Check Your Mailbox
A recent trend is inexpensive: unique and artsy mailboxes and posts. Visit an arts and crafts show and you may find hand-crafted mailboxes for a reasonable price.
While there are many variables that factor into home price fluctuations, here are four predominant large-scale influencers.
Protect your home from break-ins. A home invasion occurs every thirteen seconds in the United States. This alarmingly high rate means it’s essential to safeguard your home from burglars by investing in a home security system.
Know potential threats and emergencies relevant to your location. Teach your family about the natural threats common to your location and what to do should one occur. Having a plan and instinctively knowing what to do can save your life in the event of a disaster.
Inspect your outdoor lighting. Well-lit homes help deter burglars and prevent accidents.
Perform regular home safety checks. Every month, make sure your roof, basement, attic, pipes, and foundation are in good condition. Check your door locks, garage door, and windows for any broken parts.
Test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
Inspect your fire extinguisher. Check the pressure gauge to see if the needle is in the green, and replace or service it if it isn’t. Also examine the hose and nozzle for cracks, and you’ll need to replace your fire extinguisher if the handle is missing the locking pin or is broken.
Create an emergency communication plan. Talk with each family member about their responsibilities, where you will meet, and how to communicate with one another. If communication lines are down, it's important to have a central meeting location established so everyone can meet and regroup.
List relevant contact information and make it easily accessible to everyone. While you may keep numbers in your cellphone, it's smart to keep a hard copy of key contacts in your home including your primary care physician, poison control, and a trusted neighbor.
Keep 72-hour emergency kits in your home and car. The CDC recommends putting together an emergency kit that includes the following:
Compile and regularly update your home inventory.