Sweetwater Community

Construction crews cover freshly poured cement at the Sweetwater Community in Hailey. The median sale price of a home in the city rose 21% in 2020, according to a report by the Sun Valley Board of Realtors.

The Blaine County real estate market was deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, with a slow start evolving into a “historical peak” in sales, according to a new report issued by the Sun Valley Board of Realtors.

Data compiled through the organization’s sales listings indicate that total property sales in the county amounted to over $1.16 billion in 2020, a record high that nearly doubled the roughly $585 million sold in the 2019 calendar year. The total sales figure includes sales of residential, commercial and farm/ranch properties, as well as land.

“For much of the first half of 2020, real estate sales slowed and then came to a halt in Blaine County,” the report states. “Then, pandemic-driven demand hit in July 2020. With record-low mortgage rates, that was the moment residential and vacant lot sales began to accelerate at an unforeseen pace in Blaine County.”

There were 1,146 sales transactions in Blaine County in 2020, up 38% from 2019. Twice as many vacant lots sold in 2020 as in 2019, and almost three times as many as in 2018, the Board of Realtors reported. In 2020, 800 homes were sold, up 24% over the previous year. The median sales price of residential properties was $660,000, up 38% over 2019, the report states. There were 1,316 active listings in 2020, down 2% from 2019.

“As unexpected as the pandemic was, so too was the buyer demand, resulting in a historical peak in sales that continued to drive up prices in an area already affected by low inventory,” said Grace Summers, CEO of the Sun Valley Board of Realtors. “We suspect some buyers relocated from big cities to less-populated areas in search of larger, suburban homes as they transitioned to working remotely full-time.”

The COVID-19 pandemic started in the late winter of 2020 and by spring had caused a major slow-down in commerce in the United States, as millions of Americans went into quarantine. Ketchum local-option tax receipts show declines in business in March, April and May of 2020. Though the pandemic endured and has continued into this year, some sectors of the economy picked up—and some soared—last year after the initial lull. In Blaine County, real estate was one of them, the report confirms.

In September 2020, 136 residential properties were sold, the highest number all year. That figure represents a nearly 100% increase from September 2019, when 69 residential properties were sold. In December 2020, in a month when sales are usually slow, 77 listings sold, compared to 40 sold in December 2019, a year-over-year increase of about 92%, the report states. The lowest month for residential property sales last year was in May, when 21 listings sold.

“By the holiday season every year, we expect to see days on the market increase, but the number of residential and vacant lots continued to close at record speeds into fall and winter months,” said Jed Gray, a real estate broker who serves as president of the Sun Valley Board of Realtors. “Living in the ‘right’ home has become more important for families and individuals during the pandemic, and last year’s low rates provided an opportunity for a large number of buyers.”

Other highlights of the report’s statistics on residential sales include:

  • For properties north of Ketchum, the median sales price was $2,159,500 in 2020, an 82% year-over-year increase. Sixteen properties sold, an increase of 100%.
  • In Elkhorn, the median sales price was $649,000, up 52%. There, 125 properties sold—an increase of 23%—with the number of days on the market decreasing by 41%.
  • In Hailey, the median sales price was up 21%, at $437,500. The number of active listings was down 2%.
  • In southern Blaine County, 30 properties sold, an increase of 130%.

Highlights of the report’s statistics on sales of vacant land include:

  • In Sun Valley, outside of Elkhorn, the median sales price was $1,350,000, up 35%. The 28 land parcels sold was an 833% increase over 2019.
  • In Hailey, 105 lots of vacant land sold, an increase of 105%.
  • In Bellevue, the median sales price for land parcels was up 55%, to $151,500. The number of days on the market was down 216% from the previous year.

“This year, like last year, is and will continue to be unpredictable, as the economy moves towards recovery,” the report states. “There is no historical data to even entertain possible predictions in a post-pandemic market.”

The Sun Valley Board of Realtors trade organization has more than 300 Realtor members. Through the Sun Valley Realtors Give Foundation, members raised more than $100,000 for the Holiday Baskets program in 2020, which provided food and supplies to 430 families in need, the report notes.

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