Jan 20, 5:33 PM EST

Wisconsin home sales fall in 2014, but industry group cities strong finish


MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Sales of existing homes in Wisconsin fell slightly in 2014, while prices rose modestly.

Home sales dropped 1.5 percent last year, while the median price climbed 3.1 percent, according to a report released Monday by the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

Marquette University economics professor David Clark told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1J782e7 ) that the housing market is now on solid ground because foreclosures have declined and mortgage underwriting is stricter. Clark analyzed the data for the Realtors group.

The association's report said foreclosures fell 26.5 percent in 2014 compared with the prior year, and are around levels seen before the recession.

"We're healthier in one sense in that you don't have lots of people who are on the precipice of serious problems with foreclosure," Clark said. "We have stronger average credit scores for buyers and people who own housing today than we did back then."

The median price of homes sold in Wisconsin last year rose to $148,000 from $143,500. Wisconsin's central region was the only part of the state where prices fell.

Dan Kruse, chairman of the state Realtors group, said the 2014 market rebounded after a slow start during a harsh winter, with a particularly strong finish in the fourth quarter.

Michael Theo, the group's president, said it foresees a solid housing market for 2015, with interest rates low and the economy expected to expand.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

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