Wake County Real Estate Activity Surged in March 2021

April 20, 2021
For Immediate Release

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Contact: Luther Snyder, Deputy Director
O. 919-856-5462 M. 919-369-7045
[email protected]

Wake County Real Estate Activity Surged in March 2021

Median Sales Price up $14,000 over February. Refinancing Remains Strong

Raleigh, NC - In the very high-value segment, (transactions worth $30 million and above), March 2021 saw only one transaction for $59 million on March 12, 2021

Transactions in the Core Market (property valued at $1 million or less) totaled $1.02 billion, up $278 million from February 2021’s core market transactions of $750 million.

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 March 2021, the median sales price of a parcel of Wake County real estate was $349,000, up $14,000 from February 2021’s price of $335,000.


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 up in March

Real estate lending activity in March 2021 climbed 22.8% over February 2021’s level. And compared to March 2020, it was up 80%.

Real estate lending activity has two primary components.

  1. 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.
  2. 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. Compared to a baseline period from 2019 through early 2020, this gap quantifies increasing strength in the mortgage refinance market. Deeds and Deeds of Trust rose in March 2021 and the gap between the two remains consistently wide.

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.

Deed volume

The following chart shows the number of deeds recorded in Wake County for each month from 2019 through year-to-date 2021. Numbers of deeds recorded reflect 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. Numbers of deeds of trust recorded reflect 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 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 March 2021, 24% 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 Wake County Register of Deeds Articles and Press Releases 

This report was initially released on April 20, 2021.

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