A strong finish to the 2020 real estate market in the Sault bodes well for the future, the city's real estate board says. (Christian D'Avino/CTV News)

With new buyers and rising home prices, Sault Ste. Marie's real estate board is hoping to capitalize on the momentum stemming from a weird and strong year in 2020.

The board, representing agents stretching from Wawa to Elliot Lake, reported a total of 1,767 units sold in 2020.

According to president Tracey Rutkauskas, that was about a two per cent decrease from 2019, which she attributes to the pandemic. However, with demand remaining high, she said it drove the average sale price up quite a bit.

"The average sale price was roughly around $208,000 in 2020," said Rutkauskas. "Just in the month of December, the average prices went up and I guess the average price was $228,000."

In 2019, she said the average sale price was around $180,000, while December of 2019 was hovering around $189,000.

"It was unusual, to say the least," Rutkauskas said. "The demand never really went away, but inventory was lower, so it was quite favourable to sellers."

More than half of her clients were new to Sault Ste. Marie, with many coming from southern Ontario. A good portion of the buyers were families or couples moving to the Sault, rather than investors.

"They can purchase a waterfront property and still have acreage and still live within their means," Rutkauskas said. "Down in southern Ontario, they were not likely to do so."

With December's strong finish, she expects 2021 will be similar.

That's backed up by the Canadian Real Estate Association, which is forecasting a "relatively healthy" year, with prices either continuing to climb or remaining steady.