Metro Milwaukee home sales had banner year in 2020

GMAR notes record monthly, annual sales to close out year

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Last updated on January 14th, 2021 at 12:02 pm

“There are few superlatives left to describe the 2020 real estate market,” says the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors, in describing the performance of home sales in the metro area for last year.

In 2020, a year marked by a global pandemic, political strife and a sputtering economy, home sales came in at their highest level ever — at 22,445 units — in metropolitan Milwaukee, according to GMAR.

The metro area includes Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties.

It saw a 6.2% increase in sales over 2019. It also recorded a record December in home sales, a year-over-year increase of 25.9%.

The entire southeastern Wisconsin region saw December sales climb by a nearly identical 26%. The region saw a slightly greater increase in home sales for 2020, up 6.6% over the year prior.

In addition to the metro Milwaukee counties, the southeastern Wisconsin region also includes the counties of Kenosha, Racine and Walworth.

GMAR notes in its monthly home-sales report that a typical market in December would have seen around 1,500 units sold in metro Milwaukee, instead of the 1,800-plus units sold last month.

December sales climbed highest year-over-year in Walworth County, a 37.4% jump. This was followed by Kenosha County (34.6%), Milwaukee County (31.9%), It was followed by Waukesha County, at 23.6%, Ozaukee County (14.9%), Racine County (14.4%) and Washington County (7.5%).

Annual sales in 2020 saw the highest jumps in Racine County (10.6%) and Ozaukee County (10.3%). Kenosha County saw the smallest increase in homes sales for the year, at 4%.

GMAR attributes the record-breaking year to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led many people to hunker down in their homes for most of the year.

“Working and attending school from home changed how the public viewed housing,” the group notes. “It no longer was simply a place to go to each night, but a place to stay all day long.”

Sales stalled in the spring due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin. But it took off after statewide lockdown orders were lifted.

The record sales are a testament to the strength of buyer demand, adds GMAR. Demand has been strong since 2016.

The average sales price in the metro Milwaukee counties was up 6.8% in 2020, to roughly $325,300. GMAR says this should come as no surprise, given the lack of inventory of homes priced under $300,000.

Seasonally adjusted inventory of homes for sale, after taking out listings with an active offer, stood at 0.8 months. This is a level never seen before, GMAR states.

The 0.8 months’ of inventory means there are enough homes listed for sale to satisfy less than one month of demand from buyers.

An inventory of 6 months indicates a balanced market. Anything under that is a seller’s market, and anything above that is a buyer’s market.

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Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.

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