Helpful hints for Milwaukee's condo bound
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Face it, there comes a point in most peoples' lives where renting is just no longer worth it, and for many young professionals, night lifers and urban dwellers condos are an attractive option, for a plethora of reasons: They're generally closer to all the "action," they offer many perks of home ownership without the responsibility of home maintenance and they can act as a stepping stone to single-family home ownership, should that day come.
But with new developments almost literally springing up in many of Milwaukee's hot neighborhoods -- East Side, Downtown, the Beerline and the Fifth Ward, to name a few -- it's hard to know where to begin and easy to get overwhelmed. If you're a fresh graduate from the renter's world -- or even if you've already been down this road once before -- this is a huge deal and obviously one of the biggest decisions of your life.
With the new Cambridge River North condo project -- located off North Avenue along the Milwaukee River -- underway, Cass Stephens, the owner and developer for Cassidy Realty, had an idea to personally create a guide of sorts that would help people sort through the steps to condo ownership. What resulted is "Milwaukee Condo Shopping 101," parts of which we'll share with you in this guide.
"As realtors, we like to see people enjoy a very educated, smart condo shopping experience, whether they're looking at one of our buildings or another in the city," says Stephens.
To broaden the spectrum, we thought we'd ask a couple other local developers currently creating new condos around town for their input, as well, on how to put the process into perspective.
Tim Gokhman, director of sales and marketing for New Land Enterprises -- who has recently completed The Sterling, 1550 E. Royall Pl., and have in-progress projects in East Town and on Downer Avenue -- gives it to you straight: "Buying a condo is complicated. It's tough to simplify it, and it's not a good idea to try to do so, either."
At the same time, Jonathan Dennis, vice president of development and acquisitions for Tandem Developers -- whose The Edge, 1890 N. Commerce St., opened in the Beerline in early '06 -- reminds you to have fun with it as well: "Enjoy the process of shopping for a condo downtown. It's about choosing a lifestyle."
That being said, we let the experts at Cassidy Realty, New Land Enterprises and Tandem Developers speak for themselves in this condo shopping tutorial.
Phase I -- Planning
Step 1: Know your budget
You cannot enter this world without knowing what you're able to spend. Meet with a lender, get pre-approved and start determining an acceptable price range.
"The low end should be a very comfortable number that would give you a mortgage payment you can easily live with," says Stephens. "The upper part of that range, which you might approach if you decide you need additional amenities, might push you financially but still won't leave you "house-poor."
Dennis adds, "Keep in mind that it's better to purchase in a building that offers something unique like incredible views, a riverfront location, or special interior finishes because when it comes time to re-sell, you'll want your condo to stand out from the crowd."
Step 2: Location, location, location
Chances are if you're from around here, you're familiar enough with the various neighborhoods to have some idea of which areas you'd prefer to live in. But if you're new to the city, this decision can be much tougher. Stephens suggest breaking it down into simple terms to begin: Do you want to live in a very urban area, such as Downtown or the Third Ward? Do you prefer a more residential neighborhood like Downer Avenue? Or does an area that provides a bit of both, such as the North Avenue corridor, seem most appealing?
New Land's Gokhman says that another thing to keep in mind here is to determine if you want new construction or an existing building? Also, whether or not you prefer a low-, medium- or high-rise building might factor into which neighborhood you end up.
Step 3: It's all about the amenities
Stephens suggest making an A-list -- you're ultimate, "desert island," can't live withouts -- and a B-list -- the cool desirables, but things you're willing to be flexible on.
"We encourage every condo buyer to make a list of things that important, including location, size and type of building, but also including amenities that you'd like in your new home," says Stephens.
When compiling your A-list, you might want to consider:
- Do you want a balcony or terrace?
- Do you need parking?
- Do you require a certain number of bedrooms?
- Does the unit have adequate soundproofing?
- Do you prefer a certain type of hardwood flooring?
- Do you want other high-end appliances?
- Do you have your eye on an upgraded finish?
If it's a stepping stone to single-family home ownership, you'd better watch your step. Take a look at the MLS and see what condos are selling and which ones have been parked on the market for 10+ months. There's a glut right now in condos, and if you buy one on the low end, you may be stuck with it for a while - even if you want to sell.
It would be great if any of these 3 developers would realize that there's a HUGE market of current renters who cannot afford 180k+ one bedroom condos and that if they built condos in the 130k-165k range that they would sell out completely before ground-breaking.
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