Housing shortage challenges, frustrates local buyers

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Milwaukee area is a red-hot housing market, with buyers facing rising prices and stiff competition to find a home.

Ruben Manrique and his wife Angie Manrique are searching for their first home, a search which has taken almost two years. Angie admits the search has taken that long in part because “we are pretty picky.”

The Manriques thought their search had come to an end in March, when they put in an offer on a house. That offer was $31-thousand over the asking price, with no appraisal contingency, but it was passed over. Ruben says this latest offer is part of a pattern of disappointment. “Look at a house, get excited about it and put in an offer, lose the offer,” he said.

According to Mike Rusicka, president of the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors, low interest rates, stalled new home construction and millennials entering the housing market have all contributed to the housing shortage. Rusicka says there is also a lack of sellers. “When people reach their 60s and 70s, they think about downsizing, or you know moving to Florida or Arizona, and that's not happening quite as much as we would have expected because there's nowhere for people to move,” he said.

Brian Schweppe, real estate agent for Keller Williams, advises the Manriques and his other clients that they have to be prepared to move fast. “What we're experiencing right now is anywhere from 10 to 35 qualified buyers per property,” Schweppe said.

Schweppe says the highest offer usually gets accepted, but there are other ways to make an offer more attractive to buyers. Schweppe says waiving an inspection, removing appraisal contingencies, and allowing a seller to stay in the home past the closing date can tilt the scales in a buyer’s favor. “There's human beings on the other side, and sometimes they have kids that need to stay in school through the end of August, so we're seeing a lot of post-closing occupancy agreements,” Schweppe said.

Even though home prices are rising, Ruzicka says he does not see any current signs of a housing bubble. “People should be very comfortable that whatever they purchase now, they sell in 5, 10, 15, or 20 years. Their house is going to appreciate in value,” he said.

So, the dream of buying a new home can be a reality, but it might take some hard work and some patience. The Manriques say they are widening their search to include fixer-uppers. “Then we can just pour money into it and make it the way we want it,” Ruben Manrique said.

Rusicka says that there was a time when the Milwaukee area was insulated from national real estate trends, now it more closely mirrors what happens nationwide. He says to expect the lack of housing inventory to last into 2022.

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