“We are in what is called a seller’s market right now,” First Weber Realtors Sales Manager Amy Curler said. “We have less than six months of inventory available... The homes are selling very quickly (and) there is competition for those houses.”
A balanced market would see six months of inventory and a buyer’s market is considered greater than six months. Low mortgage rates help boost the market, too.
In some cases, consumers — both sellers and buyers — may find themselves in need of housing while finding that next home. Some may be first-time buyers actively searching yet unable to find that perfect fit, others may be sellers who have moved out of their last home but haven’t finalized the next one.
Curler, who is based in West Bend, said in those cases people have been known to sign a traditional apartment lease but can also opt for more nimble arrangements like Airbnb, Vrbo or even coming to an agreement to rent their former home for a month or two until they find their next one. “We’re trying to help them with all options that are available,” she said.
Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto said his niece just moved to the area from La Crosse, and is renting in New Berlin while she and her husband search for their home. Ponto pointed out that current renters often become homeowners, and he finds Brookfield’s rental properties might help families get used to life there and “at least give it a strong consideration” when they decide to look for a single family home.
“Homes have been getting scooped up so fast,” said Laramie Severson, Ponto’s niece. “It gets listed in the morning and it gets sold by the end of the day.” She and her husband chose to rent for now during their home search rather than try to make that work from La Crosse in such an intense market.
New apartments are rising up to meet the demand, too.
The former Toys R Us location in Brookfield is being developed for apartments as well as the riverfront near Waukesha State Bank in downtown Waukesha. A spokesman for Brookfield Heights, one of Waukesha’s existing apartments, said the place is at 98% occupancy currently and saw relatively minimal disruption during COVID19.
Mandel Group Development Associate Dan Romnek said COVID-19 may have in fact increased rather than suppressed interest in local apartments.
“We’ve seen recently a trend where the suburbs are becoming more and more desirable for residents and there is significant demand for some of the surrounding suburbs — not just downtown — where maybe there hasn’t been apartment development for a while, and therefore the appetite is growing,” he said, adding that while so much was shutdown during the pandemic, residents may have decided to ditch downtown rental prices for more of a balanced approach in the suburbs. There amenities are still available and the city is within commuting distance, but at a more reasonable monthly cost.
The Mandel Group has apartment ongoing projects in Oconomowoc, Waukesha, Oak Creek, Franklin and West Allis.
Curler said that while all price points are selling, the most popular is between $200,000 and $400,000 — the average sale price in West Bend is $332,774 and the median is $295,000.
Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said it’s likely homes in his neighborhood are viewed as being optimally priced for a quick turnaround. He said there’s been unsolicited texts to homeowners, including himself, gauging their interest in selling their property — even if their house isn’t on the market currently. A call to “Kyle” at the number Reilly received a text from Monday went to voicemail with the message: “Hi, if you’d like an offer on your property, please leave a message. Thank you.”
Curler said ultimately it’s important to have affordable housing in the area so inventory can remain strong. She said the Wisconsin Realtors Association is working with the state Legislature on that front.
“The Waukesha County Center for Growth is seeing growth in all types of housing developments within our communities,” said Judie Taylor, Waukesha Center for Growth executive director, in a statement. “We know there is a large demand for housing at all price points to continue supporting our businesses, schools, and the overall economic growth to our area. These new developments, and the efforts of our communities to provide life-cycle housing, further support the attraction of families to live, work and play in Waukesha County.”