Residential real estate sales racked up records during 2021 as buyers again flocked to the Wilmington area or moved within the region.
“We are fortunate to be in a very desirable market even during a pandemic. With many companies allowing staff to work remotely, buyers are moving to areas to satisfy lifestyle desires versus living where they must to work,” said Denise Kinney, who became president of Wilmington-based residential real estate firm Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage this year.
She said a lot of buyers are still coming from the Northeast, where property taxes and sale prices are higher. Kinney added, “We see many moving county to county in the Greater Wilmington area but also from the Triangle.”
Kinney’s firm alone surpassed $3 billion worth of closed sales for 2021 for the first time in the company’s history, according to a Dec. 7 announcement. The milestone includes sales outside the tri-county Cape Fear region of New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties, with sales from Onslow, Carteret and Craven counties also part of the mix. The company has 22 offices in North Carolina.
Kinney said 2020 “was a very strong year in real estate. I believed 2021 would still be a good year in real estate, but I didn’t think it would be as good as it turned out to be. As the year progressed we recognized trends and realized we would have another record-breaking year.”
As the year drew to a close, home sales slowed down. The number of homes sold in the Wilmington area in November declined 11% compared to the same month last year, according to a report released Dec. 8 by Cape Fear Realtors.
Home sales are typically slower in the fall months before starting to pick back up again in January and peaking in spring and summer, said Tom Gale, president of CFR. But there’s been nothing typical about the past two years as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
In fact, last November, the number of homes sold soared 36% over November 2019.
Home sales “just did not slow down last year because there were people still looking in December of last year that hadn’t been able to find anything earlier in the year,” Gale said. ‘Buyers never cooled off.”
Despite the November slowdown, Realtors are still seeing high demand and low inventory,” Gale said.
“In November, pending sales saw a minimal decline of 2.3% year over year, although up 30% compared to 2019,” the CFR report stated. “New listings were down 15.3% while homes are selling 47% faster than November 2020, confirming the need for more inventory and persistent buyer demand.”
The median sales price hit an all-time high of $320,000, up 13.5% year over year, which is a 30% increase from the same period in 2019, according to the report.
Inventory levels were down in the tri-county region by 50%, 1,173 fewer homes for sale this November compared to the previous year, the report stated. Inventory could be increasing in the year to come, as all three counties, but particularly Brunswick County, saw the sale of residential land to developers and development plans making their way through the county planning process for communities that could hold hundreds of homes.
A Wilmington buyer purchased the home at 513 S. Lumina Ave. on the oceanfront in Wrightsville Beach for more than $6.42 million in late November.
The sale breaks the most recent New Hanover County record, based on N.C. Regional Multiple Listing Service data, that was set in May.
The nearly 4,500-square-foot, three-story home on a 74-foot-wide lot sold Nov. 30 and was only on the market for a week before going under contract. Many oceanfront homes are on 50-foot lots.
“I think it’s very interesting and reassuring to see local people stepping up and buying these properties,” said Vance Young, of Wilmington-based Intracoastal Realty Corp, who was the listing agent.
The buyer was CMaid LLC, an entity organized by Neill Currie, and the seller was Carol and Vernon Grizzard of Chattanooga, Tennessee, according to the deed and state records.
Luxury buyers continue to find good deals in the Cape Fear region, Realtors say.
Young pointed out that 516 luxury homes, defined as those priced at $1 million or more, have sold in the tri-county region so far this year, compared to 382 for all of 2020, a 35% increase.
“I would say in a normal year, you might see more like a 10% increase,” Young said.
The sale at 513 S. Lumina marks the third time this year, and the fifth time in a year and a half, that a real estate transaction has broken the record for the most expensive home ever sold in New Hanover, according to a report by Just For Buyers Realty.
“What’s amazing to me is not the new record, but the clip at which these records are being broken over and over again,” said Scott Saxton, agent at Just For Buyers Realty, in the report. “For 15 years, the record high residential sale in New Hanover County never changed, but starting late last year, we’ve seen the record broken five different times. To me, that is the ultimate sign of what an incredible year it has been.”