Home sales

Eau Claire Co. beats 2020 home sales, but other Chippewa Valley areas fall short

Jan. 17 – EAU CLAIRE – Strong home sales in December helped the state stay above 2020 numbers and set Wisconsin’s new record last year.

There were 89,936 homes sold in 2021 in the state, breaking the record set the previous year of 608 homes, according to statistics released Monday by the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

“To set a new sales record is remarkable,” Brad Lois, president of the association, said in a press release accompanying the year-end figures.

The association expressed doubts in November that 2021 would set a new record after sales lagged in late summer and fall. That wasn’t enough to take a healthy lead accumulated earlier in the year, which rose by another 29 homes due to strong sales last month, sealing a new best for Wisconsin’s housing market.

Lois said the fact that the new record was set even when inventories were tighter than they were in 2020 is a testament to the persistence of buyers and estate agents.

The growth in sales, however, has not been distributed evenly across the state. The association credits Wisconsin’s heavily urbanized southeast region, centered on Milwaukee, as the area that led the state to a new record high. Sales in South Central and Southern Wisconsin were also above 2020 levels, but declining numbers were seen particularly in Northern, Northeastern and Western Wisconsin.

Of a dozen counties in west-central Wisconsin, half managed to top 2020 sales figures last year.

In Eau Claire County, the 1,588 homes sold in 2021 were 46 more than the previous year, an increase of 3%.

Barron, Clark, Jackson, Pierce and Trempealeau counties were also among those in the state to see increased sales.

On the other hand, Chippewa and Dunn counties saw fewer sales last year.

Sales in Chippewa County fell 16.8% in 2021, with 844 homes changing hands, down 170 from the previous year.

Dunn County saw sales decline 15.1% from 723 homes in 2020 to 614 last year.

Other counties that also saw lower sales include Buffalo, Pepin, Rusk and St. Croix.

With limited supply but strong demand for homes, prices have risen significantly.

The median price of a home sold last year in Wisconsin was $240,000, up $20,000 from the 2020 figure. This represents an average price growth of 9% statewide, but parts of the Chippewa Valley saw higher percentages.

The median home price in Eau Claire County reached $241,000 for 2021, up 13%.

Chippewa County’s median figure of $239,700 represents a price increase of 14.4%.

And while homes cost less in Dunn County, the median price of $230,000 there was up 15.1% from a year earlier.

Michael Theo, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Realtors Association, said in the press release that price increases subsided toward the end of 2021 and gave homebuyers an optimistic note this year.

“There have been signs that home price appreciation has started to moderate in recent months, which is good news for buyers looking to buy in 2022,” he said.

Low mortgage rates helped fuel demand for home purchases even as prices rose and supply was tight in 2021.

According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed mortgage had an interest rate of 3.1% in December, down from 2.66% a year earlier. Although rates have increased in 2021, they are still considered very low historically.

Dave Clark, a Marquette University economist who consults for the Wisconsin Realtors Association, said the Fed’s recent indications that it would raise short-term interest rates to curb inflation were unlikely to result in any significantly higher mortgage rates.

“Although mortgage rates have risen in 2021 and will likely continue to rise in 2022, containing inflationary expectations will reduce the likelihood of significant spikes in mortgage rates this year,” Clark said in the association’s press release.