A new study from the UWM Center for Urban Initiatives and Research called "Milwaukee's Condo Boom: 2008 Survey of Perceptions and Perspectives of Condominium Owners," paints a broad-based picture of the Downtown housing market.
CUIR conducted the study between October and December, collecting responses from 804 city condo owners in Downtown Milwaukee, a portion of the East Side, and the Third Ward and Walker's Point.
The purpose of the study was to get a better picture of the urban condo consumer here. "This study highlights who and what has been fueling the condo boom in Milwaukee over the past several years. Some of the findings reinforce downtown Milwaukee's uniqueness and the urban lifestyle that so many condo owners seek out," Percy says.
The following is a summary of the findings:
• Ownership. The average respondent has owned his or her condo for 3.3 years, and 44 percent of respondents are first-time homeowners.
• Residence. Eighty-eight percent of owners reside primarily in their Milwaukee condo, 12 percent do not.
• Age. The average (median) age of respondents is 44 years old, although there are two somewhat distinct clusters grouped around the age ranges of 27-30 and 53-58.
• Retirement. Twelve percent of all households surveyed were retired households, in which at least one person was retired, at the time of their condo purchase.
• Marital Status. Those who were single and never married at the time they purchased their condo constituted 39 percent of respondents, while 38 percent were married. Eleven percent were divorced, 9 percent were unmarried and living with their partner, and 2 percent were widowed.
• Race. More than 90 percent of respondents identified themselves as white or Caucasian, and fewer than 10 percent identified themselves as people of color.
• Household Income. One-quarter of respondents fell into the $100,000-$150,000 income category, the category with the largest number of respondents.
Likes and dislikes
The opportunity for a lifestyle in an urban, central and commercially-active setting dominated condo purchase decisions. Nearly half (45 percent) of those in the survey said the most important factor in deciding to purchase a Milwaukee condo was location. The desire for an "urban lifestyle" was the second most important factor at 21 percent.
Most condo owners said their likes about condo living greatly outweighed their dislikes. Despite the desirability of the urban setting and lifestyle Milwaukee offers, some respondents expressed concern over issues endemic to city life such as noise (24 percent) and parking (15 percent).
For 43 percent of respondents, internal features of their unit, such as high ceilings, wood floors, large windows, and exposed brick, are their favorite features. Regarding the least liked feature, 26 percent cited overall lack of amenities, such as a gym, or discontent over common areas like the lobbies.
When asked to reflect on their original purchase decision, eighty percent of respondents said they would buy their condo again. A majority (57 percent) said they expected to still be living in their condo five years from now.
Differences between groups
Age was influential in determining attitudes about both purchase decisions and current likes / dislikes in respect to condo ownership. Younger owners appreciate the investment opportunity condo ownership can provide, while older owners were more likely to value ease of maintenance. Younger owners were more likely to value accessibility of dining, nightlife, and recreation, while older owners were more appreciative of cultural entertainment and views of the lake or city skyline.
The assessed value of condos also exposed divisions among condo owners. Those residing in more expensive condos were more likely to factor entertainment, arts and culture, views and proximity to Lake Michigan into their views on condo ownership, while those in less expensive condos were more likely to focus on the importance of their condo as an investment in their evaluations.
A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.
He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.
Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.
He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.
He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.