Is a Housing Bubble Building in Madison?

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Madison: Anyone who's checked out home prices in Dane County the past few years has surely noticed how prices have skyrocketed. They went up another 11 percent just last year.

Todd Berry and the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance have noticed. "We raised the question, 'Is it possible that we might be nearing a point where the housing market is overpriced? Some might even use the word bubble,'" says Berry.

Realtors like Dave Stark don't like to hear the b–word.

"I just don't see that it's a very useful term to use in our market," says Stark.

A housing bubble occurs when home values reach such a high price that no one can afford to buy them.

"Values for residential property over the last 20–30 years had really outpaced income growth," says Berry.

And if interest rates go up some people might not be able to afford their mortgage payments.

Berry says other warning signs are out there, "You'll start to see the time period in which homes sell lengthen. The number of homes on the market grows, and we're starting to see that in some parts of the state."

Including in Madison.

"What we're finding is that prices are not appreciating all that quickly right now. In fact people are having to be quite competitive," says Stark.

Still, Stark says the bubble talk is nonsense.

"When you look at Dane County overall I don't think we have a bubble at all."

Berry agrees, saying at worst the housing market will just slow down a little bit.

"In the case of housing I don't think it's a bubble that will pop the way the stock market does. I think it's more of a balloon that will slowly lose some air."

"Houses are not like stocks. They have utility. People buy them because they live in them. Their prices don't rise and fall like stock prices do," says Stark.

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