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Pierce County provides bright spot to weak regional housing market

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Ellsworth, 54011

Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

Across Wisconsin the median price and the number of home sales both fell, and while most of the western region of Wisconsin followed that trend there was one bright spot - Pierce County.

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Figures released Wednesday by the Wisconsin Realtors Association show that the number of homes sold in Pierce County during the third quarter of 2008 jumped slightly, with 89 homes sold compared to 86 in the previous quarter.

The median sale price of homes there also increased from $172,600 in the second quarter to $173,300 in the third quarter.

>From a year ago the number of homes sold in Pierce County jumped 4.7 percent, but the median sales price dropped 4.7 percent.

Across the state existing home sales dropped 16.7 percent in the third quarter of this year compared to the same time last year, according to WRA figures. Nationally that figure was 7.7 percent.

The sub-prime mortgage crisis along with the nationwide economic crisis is largely to blame say WRA officials.

"Under these circumstances, it's not surprising that home sales continued to fall," said Michael Mullready, WRA chairman.

While the housing market may seem weak right now, Mullready sees some signs for optimism that the market may be reaching bottom.

"There are several localized markets where sales have begun to stabilize and single family inventories have improved, which gives us hope that we may be seeing the bottom of this market," he said.

While Pierce County may have been one of those localized markets seeing improvement, St. Croix County wasn't.

There, 265 homes were sold during the third quarter of this year compared to 281 the previous quarter.

The median sales price there dropped $10,000 from the second to $172,900 in the third quarter.

>From a year ago the median sales price for homes in St. Croix County has dropped 10.6 percent while the number of homes sold has dropped 14 percent.

The housing picture in Polk County was mixed with the number of homes sold increasing from 105 in the second quarter to 118 in the third. However, the median sales price dropped from $136,200 to $130,800.

Since the same time in 2007 the median sales price of homes there has dropped 12.8 percent and the number of homes sold has dropped 15.7 percent.

Quarterly information wasn't available for Pepin County, but annual figures show that for the Pepin/Buffalo/Trempealeau counties (WRA groups these together for their report) home prices were up 6.6 percent while the number of homes sold dropped 3.8 percent - the lowest drop in the region.

Dunn County also saw a drop in the number of homes sold in the third quarter, 31 less than in the second quarter. However, the median sales price jumped from $127,700 to $144,000.

Over the past year median prices there fell 6.4 percent, but home sales dropped 36.6 percent - the highest drop in the region.

Statewide, median prices fell 5.3 percent to $160,000 in the third quarter compared to the same time last year and William Malkasian, WRA President, termed this as a modest price adjustment and said this type of adjustment is healthy in a soft market.

"This is one of the things that will eventually turn this market around," he said.

"Large inventories give buyers more options," Malkasian added.

Mullready noted that the current market is good for first-time home buyers who have solid credit because 30-year fixed-rate mortgages continue to hover at just over 6 percent.

Get more information on the WRA Web site at www.wra.org.

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