Madison WI Real Estate Blog

Buy a campus rental and get $60,000 FREE

I'm working right now with a gentleman who's looking for a house to purchase for his kids while they are attending the University of Wisconsin in Madison. It seems like a reasonably good idea. Invest now and in a few years sell for a little profit rather than pay the landlord for 5 years (let's be honest, there are a lot of kids that don't finish a 4 year degree in 4 years). Then if the kids decide to stay in the Madison area afterwards they will already have their housing needs taken care. I think this is a tremendously good idea. The only better idea might have been to purchase a house when the kids were born, put it on a 15 year amortization schedule, then when they are ready for college they would have a house free and clear to pay for school.

The city of Madison is also in favor of owner occupied housing in some student housing rental areas. In fact, if you buy a home in the Bassett Neighborhood, the city will even give you $60,000. Wow, that's incredible. And I hear people say, "I can't afford to buy because I don't have a down payment." Would you like $60,000? There is of course a little bit of catch. The borrowers must occupy the property as their principal residence for 10 years in order to forgive 100% of the $60,000 "loan". Why would the city do this? "This pilot program will help convert downtown housing back to owner occupancy and it will help protect downtown's historic building stock," said Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. "If it works as predicted we will look to expand it in the future."

If you've ever driven through this neighborhood you would notice an interesting dichotomy. There are many older (70+ years old), run down, single family homes that are typically rented by college students. Then very close by there is a bustling of new construction activity. Metropolitan Place, Nolan Shore, and Capitol West are a handful of very large brand new beautiful condominium complexes. I think it will be interesting to see what continues to happen on this...

Location, location, location...

If you talk to just about any Realtor in the world, they will tell you to buy in a good location. In fact, I can hear some of the old codgers still saying the same old cliche, "location, location, location..." Some Realtors even refer to this "benefit" in their advertising. But what does that really mean? What location is a "good" location? How do you define what is a "good" location?

When I sit down to talk to buyers that I work with, I ask them about what would be the ideal location. Because ultimately, it doesn't matter how good I think the location might be. A good location is best determined by your needs and wants. What might be a good location for you, might be horrible for another person. You know how it goes, "one man's trash...is another man's treasure." When considering buying a home in the Madison area or anywhere else, you should definitely think about location in terms of what's important to you.

One of the first things to think about is, what really matters to you. How important is it for you to be close to work? How close is close enough? Do you want to commute 60 minutes, 30 minutes, or be able to walk? Do you want to be next to an active park like James Madison Park or do you like the serenity of being near Cherokee Park? Is being near a park even important?

Some people feel drawn to an area because of the school district. I don't have any kids yet, so I don't really care to be near a school. But growing up I enjoyed living near the high school. Think about what type of school environment you want for your kids. The school atmosphere is a lot different at the Madison Metropolitan School District versus the small town simplicity of a place like Belleville.

What kind of neighborhood feel do you like? Do you prefer downtown and trendy? Suburban with lot's of kids running around? Some people ask me what are the best neighborhoods in Madison and it really depends on what you want in a neighborhood. The best way to do that is actually...

Should I Hire a Realtor?

I just got off the phone with a guy that I've never met. His name is Mike. Mike called me because he knows one of my other friends from college named Ross. Mike is like many other young professionals in this world in that he is tired of throwing his money away on rent and wants to buy some real estate. He's not entirely sure what he wants to buy, but would like to get a condo in a cool part of downtown Milwaukee that will be a good fit for him and his dog. I think to myself, heck yeah, at 27 years old, who wouldn't want a trendy downtown condo?

Since I'm a Realtor in the Madison area, I don't really service the Milwaukee area. But Ross thought I might be able to at least give Mike some advice as he goes out searching for a new condo to buy. We chatted for a few minutes and I gave him my thoughts.

Mike told me this was his first home purchase and he didn't really know where to start. One of the first things that I suggested is get pre-qualified with a mortgage lender that you trust. A good lender will discuss various monthly payment options and how your costs vary depending on debt/income ratios, credit scores, and down payment. I also told him to be wary of some internet lenders as sometimes they can cause all kinds of mischief, especially if the transaction does not close on time.

"Get a buyers agent", was the other thing that I mentioned. Team up with a really good real estate agent that you feel comfortable with and that you trust. Find an agent that will look out for your best interests through the entire home buying process. In Wisconsin, the default when meeting an agent is that that they are a seller's agent. A good agent will discuss the differences in the agency law.

When buying your first home it's important to find a good agent to help give you useful and relevant information about an area. Even though we live in a global economy, keep in mind that all real estate is local. What happens in one area (currently a stable real estate market...