Eagles Landing at Lac La Belle offers luxurious
living and the convenience of a condominium.
Photo courtesy of Stapleton Realty
Luxurious condominiums priced at $500,000
that are located in the heart of downtown Milwaukee and
in the idyllic suburbs are rising in popularity, but
buyers are finding that there is a limited inventory of
those top-of-the-line listings.
The overall condo market “is extremely
tight,” says Mike Ruzicka, president of the Greater
Milwaukee Association of Realtors®. Ruzicka says the
tightest squeeze is in the under $300,000 category,
because baby boomers and millenials are competing for
the same properties.
“Above that [price point], it’s slowing
down, but not significantly,” he explains. “It’s doing
well, it’s just not as hot as the lower end of the
Ruzicka says the lack of inventory is the
result of the Great Recession of late 2007 to mid 2009.
When the recession hit, condo construction took a deep
“Coming out of the recession in 2012 and
2014, the high end came back faster than the lower end,
because a lot of the buyers on the upper end are cash
buyers,” he explains.
of the buyers at that time were looking for a bargain,
such as condos marked down from $1.5 million to $1
million. Real estate really didn’t start emerging from
the recession until 2015, when buyers began to relax
their zeal for deals.
David Price of Milwaukee Realty, who
bills himself as “The Condo Man,” points to the short
list of all local condos currently for sale and notes
that Milwaukee “really doesn’t have many new condos
coming up.” On a recent Friday, only 65 condos, priced
from $75,000 to more than $4 million, were active
listings throughout the Milwaukee area.
From 2016 through the end of February
2019, 232 condos sold for $500,000 or more in Milwaukee,
Ozaukee, Waukesha and Washington counties, according to
Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors® data.
“Now, one of the weird things is
developers are building apartments, but not building
condos,” says Ruzicka. “It will clear itself up, but
it’s going to take some time. You’re almost paying New
York prices for apartments around here, $3,000 to $4,000
However, Mary Beth Gaspar-Waite, broker
and owner of Cornerstone Realtors, says there are plenty
of high-end suburban condos available.
Photo courtesy of Greater Milwaukee Association of
Photo courtesy of Stefaniak Group
“One of my favorites is Eagles Landing at
Lac La Belle,” she says. Condos in the 21-unit
Oconomowoc development are sold as ‘designer shell,’ so
that buyers can choose custom finishes, appliances,
lighting and bath fixtures as well as the contractor
they hire to install them. Included are decks and
railings and stunning views of the lake.
In downtown Milwaukee, jaw-dropping views
of Lake Michigan are on top of the high-end buyers’ wish
lists. That’s why Price keeps a close eye on the
relatively few condos that feature lake views: they are
rarely available for more than a week.
Other important amenities include on-site
management services, as well as a workout facility,
security and maintenance services.
“Those are the basics,” Price notes, but
some condo buildings go well beyond essentials. Kilbourn
Tower, for example, has a humidor and a wine cellar.
Ruzicka says buyers of luxury condos are
looking for kitchens designed for entertaining as well
as show-stopping baths. A guest room is also important,
especially for downtown condos, and “covered parking is
huge, a definite must. As far as landscaping and layout,
they want nice landscaping — they just don’t want to
shovel,” Ruzicka adds.
This 2-story penthouse in Milwaukee’s 601 Lofts
features 6,500 sq. ft. of living space.
Photo courtesy of Corley Real Estate/Greater
Milwaukee Association of REALTORS
Common spaces such as a clubhouse, heated
pool or fitness area allow condo residents to cultivate
a sense of community, according to Gaspar-Waite. The
“Glen” developments by Cornerstone Developments (not
associated with Cornerstone Realtors) in Pewaukee and
Brookfield are an example.
“Each development has its own
personality. It is not just about dollars, cents and
cabinet design,” she says. “Green space for walking dogs
and/or patio space for grilling is key. The most
successful developments take the best features of single
family layouts and condense them into a semi-detached
side-by-side living situation with basements for storage
empty-nest baby boomers are well represented in the pool
of buyers of luxury condos, Gaspar-Waite says the market
is actually much wider. As the level of stress in
everyday life goes up, more people are choosing to make
the most of their free time, she explains, and condo
life offers more flexibility; somebody else is handling
exterior maintenance and care of the property.
Developments with larger condos are also finding a
market in families with children.
Price notices a trend in people moving to
downtown condos: many are young professionals who do not
own cars, opting instead to use ride services and other
means of transportation. They prefer to walk to
restaurants and entertainment venues as well.
“The number of people who don’t have cars
has gone up tenfold,” Price says. “It’s a very
distinctive trend, especially in the Third Ward.”
Ruzicka notes that many condo
developments are located near the Hop. “With the trolley
coming online, several thousand apartments and condos
are within walking distance [of a stop], so it’s easy to
get around downtown,” he says.
Though they do own cars, Carmella
Arbogash and her husband, Dennis, were looking for a
walkable neighborhood when they sold their
three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home in Franklin and
purchased a mid-priced, 1,600-square-foot condo in the
Riverbridge development on Milwaukee’s Lower East Side.
“We live right on the river, so we have
access to the Riverwalk, Lakefront Brewery and Eagle
Park Brewery and the Oak Leaf Trail,” Arbogash says.
“It’s a really great combo of city living but with urban
outdoor opportunities. I love the lifestyle because I’m
outside a lot. And it’s just a great community; I love
Whether you are interested in a $3
million penthouse condo or a much more modest condo
listing, if you find the one you love, be ready to make
hear stories about people missing condos because they
don’t have financing lined up,” Price says, “so it’s
kind of a fast-flowing salmon stream and you have to be
ready once you put your hook in there.”