WisBusiness: Dane County home prices among highest in state

By Brian E. Clark

National publications often rank Madison and Dane County among the best places to live and work in the country. The area’s home prices, which are among the highest in the state, reflect that popularity.

According to the South Central Wisconsin Multiple Listing Service, the average price for a Madison home sold in February was $228,000. Two years ago, that figure was $190,000.

"This is a fabulous place to live, especially now that spring is here," said Kevin King, executive vice president of the listing service.

"The economy is solid, we have great schools and services and one of the nation’s top universities is here," he said. "Fortunately, our businesses aren’t based much on the price of gasoline."

The unemployment rate in Madison for February was 3.3 percent, the lowest in the state, according to the state Workforce Development Department. In Dane County, the figure was 3.6 percent, compared to a statewide average of 5.8 percent.

"The only downside to the desirability of living here is that the demand is driving up prices," King said, noting that the average price five years ago was around $150,000.

(It could be worse, the median price for a home sold in San Diego in March was $588,000, up 21 percent from the same month in 2004.)

In the Milwaukee County area, the median price (which means half of the homes sold were of a higher price and half were lower), for the first quarter of the year was $164,000.

But prices throughout that county varied widely, with the sales figure for the upscale communities of Whitefish Bay and Bayside through March at $356,000. In the northern Milwaukee suburb of Mequon (in Ozaukee County), houses were selling for an average of $417,000.

In Green Bay, the average price of a home sold through the first quarter of this year was $146,000, according to Michael Hled of Realty Executives. He said the figure was $148,000 in Appleton through March.

In Minnesota’s Twin Cities area, the median price for March was $219,000, up nearly 8 percent from last year. For Wisconsin’s St. Croix County – which is included in the Twin Cities region – the median price for March was $204,000.

And in the Chicagoland area, the median price for a home sold in February was $236,000.