Wednesday, June 19, 2024

2021 housing market breaks record sales, inventory shortages persist

Wilmington ranks among top three desirable places to move, according to one study

Real estate inventory has dipped lower in 2021 as demand remains strong. (Port City Daily/Johanna F. Still)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — The local housing market closed out 2021 with record-breaking sales, despite shortages continuing to plague buyers. It’s a trend realtors expect to continue into 2022 with supply constraints pushing up costs.

According to a release from Cape Fear Realtors, sales prices on single-family homes and condos/townhouses in the tri-county region reached new heights last year. The median home costs $325,000, up 14% from $285,000 in 2020. Still, prices remain below the national average, according to, which listed a home’s median cost at $375,000.

It also was the biggest year on the books for the luxury housing market. Over 550 homes, priced $1 million or more, sold in the tri-county area, for a total of almost a billion dollars. 

Wilmington continued ranking in the top three desired places to relocate, according to a National Movers Study. In 2020, the Port City came out in the number-one spot of inbound migration at 79% (outbound 21%) and ranking third in 2021 with similar stats: 80% inbound and 20% outbound.

An influx of new residents coming to the region and local buyers looking to change residences, paired with fewer homes being built due to supply shortages and a decline in sellers, has driven down inventory. New listings went from from 934 in 2020 to 851 in 2021, with houses spending an average of 33 days on the market last year compared to 65 days the previous year.

Throughout 2021 the Cape Fear region’s realtors were selling with less than a month’s worth of inventory — 0.8 to be exact — the lowest figure in Cape Fear Realtors’ 16-year database, according to a report from Port City Daily in April.

On a national scale, inventory declined at a rate of 6.1% over December 2020. Sellers were listing at rates that were 12.9% lower than 2017 to 2019’s December levels, Cape Fear Realtors noted, referring to data from

“In December, we saw a typical seasonal slowdown in closed and pending sales due to the holiday frenzy,” Cape Fear Realtors president Ea Ruth said in a release.

Less inventory affected closed sales, which declined 11.4% from 1,309 to 1,160. Pending sales also were down 8.8%, from 934 to 831.

Experts expect the trend of “strong buyer demand and inventory shortages likely to persist” this year, according to a release from Cape Fear Realtors.

As well, mortgage rates are rising. In January 2021, a 30-year fixed rate was around 2.65%, the lowest on record. As of last week, Freddie Mac reported it crept up to an average of 3.45%.

“Despite the challenges of rising prices, limited inventory and fast-paced sales, market activity maintained a lively pace throughout 2021 and buyer demand continues as more sellers plan to enter the market,” Ruth added in the release.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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