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Milwaukee area posts highest-ever home sales in 2020

A for-sale sign stands before a house in Milwaukee in November 2012. The Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors recently reported that 22,445 houses were sold in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties in 2020. That was the highest annual total ever recorded for the region. (File photo by Kevin Harnack)

A for-sale sign stands before a house in Milwaukee in November 2012. The Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors recently reported that 22,445 houses were sold in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties in 2020. That was the highest annual total ever recorded for the region. (File photo by Kevin Harnack)

The Milwaukee area ended 2020 with its best year ever for home sales, a feat brought-on by the pandemic.

With many Milwaukee-area residents homebound because of the coronavirus pandemic, many people came to see real estate as a source of security this past year, according to the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors. The association reported this week that 22,445 houses were sold in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties in 2020. That was the highest annual total ever recorded for the region.

Sales for December alone were up by 25.9% from the same month the year before.

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

Home sales in Milwaukee County increased by 31.9% in December. That was more than was seen in Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties, where large increases also occurred. Taken as a whole, the metro area saw a 25.9% increase in year-over-year home sales in December.

Kenosha and Walworth counties had even bigger figures. Kenosha County saw a 34.6% increase in December and Walworth 37.4%.

Much of the growth in the Milwaukee area came in the second half of the year. Home sales there in fact fell by 6.9% in the first six months of 2020 but then were up by 17.3% in the second half.

The fast pace of home sales, and a lack of supply, has also driven up prices. The average sales price for a home grew 10.2% in Milwaukee County, 11.9% in Waukesha County and 6.8% in Washington County. The average sales price in Ozaukee County, by contrast, increased by only 0.5%.

According to GMAR, the Milwaukee metro area’s supply of homes is reaching “dangerously low” levels. The trade group expects the region currently has enough inventory to last 8 months — a figure “never seen before.”

“If the region does not create additional supply in the form of more single-family and condo units, thousands of would-be homeowners will be forced into rental units, forgoing the opportunity to build wealth through a home’s equity and all of the other benefits of homeownership,” according to the report.

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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