February 24, 2021
Contact: Luther Snyder, Deputy Director
2021 Started Off Slightly Cooler than the High-paced Real Estate Market of 2020 in Wake County
The January 2021 decrease was felt across all real estate market segments.
Raleigh, NC - January 2021 brought over $979 million in real estate transactions in Wake County. This is a decrease of over $981 million from December 2020’s $1.9 billion mark.
January dollar value of transactions
During January 2021, $979 million worth of real estate traded hands in Wake County. This is a 24% drop from the $1.3 billion mark in January 2020.
January had a decrease in the very high-value transaction segment over December 2020. This segment is defined as transactions worth $30 million and up. In December 2020, nine transactions totaling just over $549 million were made. January 2021 only saw one transaction in the very high-value segment totaling a little less than $39 million.
During January 2021, core market transactions were $721 million, down $332 million from December 2020’s core market transactions of $1.06 billion, but up $90 million from January 2020 which was at $631 million. The core market is defined as property valued at $1 million or less and it comprised about 96% of January’s transactions.
The following chart shows the dollar value of real estate transfers by month broken down into three price ranges.
A breakdown of the dollar value of transactions by price range for the years 2014 – 2019 is available at Wake County 2019 Property Market and Trends 2014 - 2019
Median sales prices
In January 2021, the median sales price of a parcel of Wake County real estate was $328,750, down $9,250 from December 2020’s price of $338,000.
Changes in median sales prices tend to be caused by activity in the core market. The occurrence or non-occurrence of large transactions has virtually no impact on the calculation of median values because there are so few of those transactions.
Lending activity down in January
Real estate lending activity in January 2021 was down nearly 14% compared to December 2020, but it was up 74% compared to January 2020.
Real estate lending activity has two primary components.
- The first is lending that coincides with a transfer of ownership of real estate. This is seen in the typical residential home sale where simultaneously a seller’s loan is paid off and a buyer takes out a new loan as ownership is transferred by deed.
- The second is where a new loan secured by real estate is taken out, but there is not a change in ownership of the underlying property. This is the situation in the typical mortgage refinancing or second mortgage transaction.
The relative strength of the second type of lending activity can be quantified by comparing the ratio of deeds of trust to deeds in a period. Relatively more deeds of trust signify increasing refinance of mortgage loans.
Since the autumn of 2019, there has been a significant increase in the second type of lending activity. The following chart shows the continuing wide gap between deeds of trust and deeds. This gap, compared to a baseline period from 2019 through early 2020, quantifies increasing strength in the mortgage refinance market. Although Deeds and Deeds of Trust both took a dip in January 2021, hence the gap between the two is still consistent.
Long-Term Trends in Real Estate Activity
Aggregate value of real estate transactions
The following chart shows the aggregate dollar value of real estate transactions in Wake County for each month from 2019 through 2021. Because real estate transactions tend to be seasonal, it is useful to compare monthly results to the corresponding month of prior years.
Aggregate value of real estate transactions - linear
The following chart shows the aggregate dollar value of real estate transfers in Wake County linearly (month by month) from January 2019 through year to date 2021. Because real estate transactions tend to be seasonal, this information should be evaluated in conjunction with the year-over-year comparison is shown in the preceding chart.
The following chart shows the number of deeds recorded in Wake County for each month from 2019 through 2021. The number of deeds recorded reflects the velocity of real estate activity without regard to the dollar value of a transaction. The number of deeds includes transfers where monetary consideration did not change hands, such as transfers within a family.
Real estate lending
This chart shows the number of deeds of trust recorded in Wake County for each month from 2019 through 2021. A deed of trust is the legal instrument used in North Carolina to secure a loan with real estate used as collateral. The number of deeds of trust recorded reflects the velocity of lending transactions involving real estate without regard to the dollar amount of the loan.
Methodology and Additional Information
The statistics in this report are derived from instruments recorded in the office of the Wake County Register of Deeds. Under North Carolina law, changes in property rights in real estate, including security interests in real estate, are recorded with the Register of Deeds of the county where the real estate is located.
The value of real estate transferred is measured by excise tax assessed on the consideration in a real estate transaction. Excise taxes are calculated as $1 in tax for every five hundred dollars of consideration. About 99% of these transactions were property transfers by deed and the balance were miscellaneous transactions such as acquisitions of a right of way. The calculation of the aggregate value of real estate includes all transactions. The calculation of median price includes all transactions where the property was transferred by deed.
The core market is defined as property transactions valued at $1 million and less. In January 2021, 96% of transactions were in the core market.
The number of deeds and deeds of trust recorded with the Register of Deeds reflects the total volume of property and loan transactions regardless of the dollar value of the real estate or the amount of the loan. The number of deeds includes transfers where monetary consideration did not change hands, such as transfers within a family. In January 2021, 26% of deeds attracted no excise tax. In 2020, that percentage was 21% in the first quarter, 22% in the second quarter, 21% for the third quarter, and 23% for the fourth quarter.
On March 14, 2020, public schools were closed and mass gatherings were prohibited by executive order of the governor. On March 17 and 23, 2020 additional executive orders were issued which closed certain businesses and introduced additional restrictions. Based on these events, a starting date of March 17 is used to demark the advent of COVID-19 related legal restrictions on economic activity.
For a complete picture of Wake County real estate activity, the information in this report should be considered in conjunction with data available from other sources, such as rezoning applications and new building permits, plus other information published by the Register of Deeds available at:
This report was initially released on February 24, 2021.