‘Off-balance’ real estate market causes headaches for homebuyers

“Your house will sell within a couple of days, but finding a house and getting an accepted offer takes a lot longer.”
Published: May. 10, 2022 at 5:18 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Paul Dau’s family is getting settled into their new Wausau home.

“We moved in about four weeks ago,” Dau said, “still getting ready and unboxed and moved in here.”

The family started their search for a new house in December and had an offer accepted in April.

“We now have three kids, so we just outgrew the old house, [and] we wanted to be in a nicer neighborhood,” Dau said. “We really just looking at anything that came on the market within our budget, and that was about 15 houses in the three months that we were looking.”

Dau’s family is not alone.

Families across Wisconsin and the country are navigating a historic housing market.

“The market now is, historically, a record-low number of inventory, record-high number of buyers, and we have seen just over the last two years alone double-digit increases in market values and double-digit decreases in market availability of homes that are available for buyers to buy,” Lora Bladow, a Realtor for RE/MAX Excel said.

For families like Dau’s, that means competition is stiff.

They ended up offering a little more than $20,000 over asking price to snag their current home.

“Knowing that you’re putting in an offer that might be over-paying for a house, but that’s the only way you can get it, is kind of scary when you go through it,” Dau said.

It’s gotten scarier as Wausau has moved further away from a balanced market.

“The definition of a balanced market industry-wide is six months of inventory overall on the residential side,” Bladow said.

There are more people looking to buy than there are houses on the market.

“We are currently, in the Wausau area, at two months inventory,” Bladow said, “which clearly shows that we’re very low in inventory right now.”

“I was not expecting Wausau to be this difficult to find a home,” Dau said.

The balance of the housing market tilts at a greater angle as Wausau grows.

“We had a growing population and not a growing number of houses being built,” Bladow explained, “and that’s really ultimately the stem of the problem.”

The Dau family saw the market from both sides, as their sold their previous home in 2021.

“We were able to sell our house for significantly more than we had bought it for five years previously,” Dau said. “That really helped us be able to afford the house we moved into now.”

That’s the flip side of an unbalanced market when it leans toward the seller’s favor.

“Your house will sell within a couple of days, but finding a house and getting an accepted offer takes a lot longer,” Dau said.

The trend isn’t expected to change any time soon.

“Demand, obviously, is still going to remain higher than the supply,” Bladow said, “which will continue to drive this market for at least another year to three years, depending on a lot of different factors, but that’s ultimately about how far behind we are to catch-up with the shortage we have.”

For agents, an off-balance market is a stressful market.

“I’ve been in this business since 2006,” Bladow said, “and this is by far the most stressful market that I’ve seen as a realtor, including the crash of the housing industry in 2008, 2009, [and] 2010, mostly because it is so very complicated.”

It’s a complicated process for something as simple as a growing family finding a new home.

“Going through the process, we did all of the house hunting in winter, so when we even looked at this house, there was still some snow on the ground,” Dau said, “and being able to be here, moved in and with spring here, it’s a big relief. It’s a big stress relief, to just be able to sit and relax finally.”

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