Jan. 17—EAU CLAIRE — Strong December home sales helped the state stay above 2020's figures and establish last year as the new record for Wisconsin.
There were 89,936 homes sold during 2021 in the state, which beat the record set the previous year by 608 homes, according to statistics released Monday by the Wisconsin Realtors Association.
"Setting a new record for sales is remarkable," Brad Lois, chairman of the association, said in a news release that accompanied the year-end figures.
The association expressed doubts during November that 2021 would set a new record after sales had lagged in late summer and fall. It wasn't enough to take out a healthy lead built up earlier in the year, which grew by another 29 homes due to last month's strong sales, sealing a new best for Wisconsin's housing market.
Lois stated the fact the new record was set even while inventories were tighter than they were in 2020 is a testament to the persistence of buyers and realtors.
Sales growth wasn't evenly spread across the state though. The association credits Wisconsin's heavily urbanized southeast region focused on Milwaukee as the area that led the state to a new record. Sales in south central and southern Wisconsin were also above 2020 levels, but declining numbers were seen especially in northern, northeastern and western Wisconsin.
Out of a dozen west-central Wisconsin counties, half of them manged to surpass 2020's sales figures last year.
In Eau Claire County, the 1,588 homes sold in 2021 was 46 more than the year before — a 3% increase.
Barron, Clark, Jackson, Pierce and Trempealeau counties were among those in the state to see their sales grow as well.
On the flipside, Chippewa and Dunn counties experienced fewer sales last year.
Sales in Chippewa County declined by 16.8% in 2021, with 844 homes changing hands — 170 less than the prior year.
Dunn County had a 15.1% sales drop, falling from 723 homes in 2020 to 614 last year.
Other counties that also saw lower sales included Buffalo, Pepin, Rusk and St. Croix.
With a limited supply but high demand for homes, prices were up significantly.
The median price of a home sold last year in Wisconsin was $240,000, up $20,000 from 2020's figure. That represents an average 9% price growth across the state, but parts of the Chippewa Valley saw larger percentages.
Eau Claire County's median home price reached $241,000 for 2021, up 13%.
Chippewa County's median figure of $239,700 represents a 14.4% price hike.
And while homes went for less in Dunn County, the $230,000 median price there was a 15.1% rise over the previous year.
Michael Theo, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Realtors Association, said in the news release that price increases calmed down toward the end of 2021 and gave an optimistic note for this year's homebuyers.
"There have been signs that home price appreciation has begun to moderate in recent months, which is welcome news for buyers looking to buy in 2022," he said.
Low mortgage rates helped fuel demand for homebuying even as prices went higher and supply was scarce in 2021.
According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed mortgage had a 3.1% interest rate in December, up from 2.66% a year before. While rates had risen during 2021, they are still considered very low historically.
Dave Clark, a Marquette University economist who consults for the Wisconsin Realtors Association, stated the Fed's recent indications it will raise short-term interest rates to slow inflation is unlikely to result in dramatically higher mortgage rates.
"Although mortgage rates increased in 2021 and will likely continue to rise in 2022, keeping inflationary expectations in check will reduce the likelihood of significant spikes in mortgage rates this year," Clark said in the association's news release.