EAU CLAIRE — Wisconsin set a new record for the number of homes sold last year, but Eau Claire County’s figure ended level with 2019.

Statewide home sales rose 7.3% last year with a total of 88.685 sets of house keys turned over to new owners, beating the previous high-water mark of 83,984 set in 2017, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

“That’s pretty exciting considering everything we’ve gone through in the state and country,” said Deborah Hanson, a realtor at Century 21 Affiliated in Altoona and the president of the Realtors Association of Northwestern Wisconsin.

Last year started with a solid first quarter, but the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns led to a 10.2% drop in sales during the spring months. Sales activity then picked up for the second half of 2020 and was especially strong for the end of the year.

“To suggest that this has been an up and down year would be a significant understatement, but it’s great to see us closing out 2020 with such strong growth,” Mary Duff, a Madison-based realtor and chairwoman of the WRA, said in a news release.

The state was already on pace to set a record going into the typically slow sales month of December, but was surprised when the year ended exceptionally well.

There were 7,117 homes sold last month in Wisconsin — a 22.5% increase — on December 2019’s tally of 5,812 homes.

It capped off a year when a hot housing market got even hotter, aided by historic low mortgage rates. By December the 30-year fixed mortgage rate had fallen to an unprecedented 2.68%, the WRA noted.

Only eight of Wisconsin’s 72 counties saw their sales numbers decrease in 2020. One of those that didn’t quite reach 2019’s sales figures was Eau Claire County.

There were 1,527 homes sold in the county during 2020 — one less than a year prior.

Hanson believes the county’s low inventory of homes held the sales numbers back.

“It’s still the same old story. There’s just not enough houses to sell,” she said.

Last month marked the lowest home inventory levels the WRA recorded throughout the state since it began tracking the statistic in 2009.

“Eventually overall inventory gets so low that it leads to flat or even falling home sales,” WRA President and CEO Michael Theo said in the news release.

While the low inventory is seen statewide, the WRA has said throughout the year that it’s more pronounced in urban areas, which includes Eau Claire County. Rural counties near Eau Claire saw their sales numbers rise last year.

Both Chippewa and Dunn counties saw significant increases in sales, 13.4% and 11.5%, respectively.

The 1,010 homes sold in Chippewa County last year beat 2019’s tally by 119. Dunn County saw its home sales reach 719 in 2020 — 74 more than its number for the prior year.

High demand for homes coupled with the low supply have driven prices upward in what continues to be a seller’s market.

The median home price — a barometer for how much people would expect to pay for a typical home — stayed above $200,000 for the first time in Wisconsin history. The statewide annual median price stood at $220,000 over the course of 2020, compared to $197,500 the previous year.

Median home prices in both Eau Claire and Chippewa counties also surpassed $200,000 for the year. In Eau Claire County, the median price was $212,000 — up $22,100 from the previous year. A typical home in Chippewa County sold for $209,900 last year, which was $19,900 higher than a year before.

Dunn County’s median home price was $199,900 for 2020 — $23,400 more than 2019’s figure.

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