MILWAUKEE (AP) - Housing sales increased 9 percent last month, continuing a rebound that now includes 22 consecutive months of growth.
The median price of homes also increased, by almost 8 percent.
"We're seeing sales increasing, we're seeing values go up - without a doubt," said Dave Schmidt, who owns Dave Schmidt Realty in Milwaukee.
April sales included 5,863 existing homes, a 9.2 percent increase from the 5,367 sold during the same time the year before, the Wisconsin Realtors Association said Monday. The median price was $138,000, up from $128,000 in April 2012. Still, the median home price remains far below the $160,000 seen in April 2006 during the housing bubble.
Wisconsin Realtors Association president Michael Theo said home prices have increased because there are fewer houses on the market at the same time that low mortgage rates are attracting more buyers.
David Clark, a Marquette University economics professor who analyzes the sales and price data for the Wisconsin Realtors Association, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the market for starter homes appears to be fairly balanced.
"I think the entry-level market is pretty close to being balanced," Clark said. "I think the higher-end market is still somewhat of a buyer's market, and I think the urban markets are closer to being balanced than the rural markets and those markets in the northern part of the state that are dominated somewhat by the second-home market."
Agents said they are seeing more people now who feel confident enough about their finances to trade up.
"What you're starting to see is that move-up buyer - the guy who bought his first house five or 10 years ago and is now feeling comfortable, saying, 'Hey, I want to sell my starter house,'" Schmidt said. "I'm working with a few buyers right now that are in the process of doing that."
Clark said the gains in the housing market have come without significant improvement in employment.
"We haven't really seen a lot of net job growth," he said. "We're looking at unemployment rates hovering in the 7.1% to 7.2% range throughout the first four months of this year, and we're still seeing solid sales volume."
While mortgage rates - now about 4 percent - are slowly increasing, Clark didn't expect that to slow home sales.
"I just don't see that as something that's going to significantly stifle demand," he said.
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