The number of homes listed in Milwaukee in January and February was the second lowest this century

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When retiree Anne Curley visited the Enderis Park neighborhood, she knew it was "the one."

A Wauwatosa resident at the time, Curley discovered the neighborhood while enjoying a long bike ride. She'd never heard of Enderis Park, and said she was "shocked" after heading north across Center street into Milwaukee.

"I found myself in this absolutely charming neighborhood that I just immediately fell in love with," Curley said.

She decided it was time for a move.

Curley typed up 10 letters, and dropped them off at the various houses she took interest in. It's a popular trend, known by real estate agents as "love letters" — when a buyer tries to convince another homeowner to sell to them via a written plea, even if there isn't a for sale sign out front.

Anne Curley poses for a portrait Wednesday, March 16, 2022, at her home located in Enderis Park. “It was built in the 30’s, they just don’t make homes like this anymore,” she said. “It’s my dream home; when I come downstairs every morning I feel so happy. I am surrounded by beauty.”
Anne Curley poses for a portrait Wednesday, March 16, 2022, at her home located in Enderis Park. “It was built in the 30’s, they just don’t make homes like this anymore,” she said. “It’s my dream home; when I come downstairs every morning I feel so happy. I am surrounded by beauty.”

Curley got lucky. A couple who owned a house she loved was already considering moving to Colorado for work. With help from Resolute Real Estate owner Cheri Kent, the sale went smoothly in 2019, and Curley now lives in her dream home on N. 71st St.

She purchased the home for $270,000.

But in the spring 2022 home selling market, Curley's story is rare.

In hot neighborhoods like Enderis Park and Bay View, the pandemic housing shortage trend is still in full swing. Even "chillier" neighborhoods are seeing high demand and low supply.

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Another year, another seller's market

With COVID-19 restrictions easing, this year's buyers are eager to forge a path in what local experts are calling a historically tight market. Demand for houses is high, but supply is low, and demand isn't slowing down anytime soon.

Metro area listing numbers for January and February 2022 are the second lowest this century, only beat by 2021's listings, according to a report from the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors.

"It remains a seller's market," Kent said.

In order to meet demand, the market needs to fill an 8,205 unit-shortage, according to the report. This means the housing shortage will likely continue for the near future.

"If the region does not create additional supply in the form of more single-family and condominium units, thousands of would-be homeowners will be forced into rental units, foregoing the opportunity to build wealth through a home’s equity and all of the other benefits of home ownership," the Realtors report said.

Although the market isn't as tight as a year ago, it hasn't returned to pre-pandemic levels, said GMAR president Mike Ruzicka.

In 2021, the metro Milwaukee real estate market broke sales records for the second year in a row, with over 22,000 homes sold. Prices in 2021 rose by 10.8% compared to 2020 in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee counties.

"The market was hot all the way through into the fall [in 2021]," Ruzicka said. "And 2022 picked up right where 2021 left off. But it's not as crazy as last year, it's looking like it's going to be a good year."

Ruzicka noted that this is still true, even with the recent mortage interest rate increases.  While this is one of the most aggressive hikes since 2005, federal interest rates are still fairly low, and won't specifically target mortgages, so much as the economy as a whole.

Anne Curley poses for a portrait Wednesday, March 16, 2022, at her home located on N. 71st St., Milwaukee.  “It was built in the 30’s, they just don’t make homes like this anymore,” she said. “It’s my dream home; when I come downstairs every morning I feel so happy. I am surrounded by beauty.”
Anne Curley poses for a portrait Wednesday, March 16, 2022, at her home located on N. 71st St., Milwaukee. “It was built in the 30’s, they just don’t make homes like this anymore,” she said. “It’s my dream home; when I come downstairs every morning I feel so happy. I am surrounded by beauty.”

COVID-19 changed buyer priorities

Buyers, sellers and everyone in between are looking forward to a more "normal" real estate market, as the population continues to adjust to what many hope is the tail end of the pandemic.

The amount of time spent in a prospective home often had to be cut short, Kent said. Both buyers and sellers were forced to make decisions fast, and often had to compromise in some areas.

"The pandemic kind of changed people's perspective of what 'home' means," said Kent, "It put a higher level on what that means to people — it's both emotional and financial. The definition of people's needs changed."

The 'sourdough bread' effect

Bryan Conti of Shorewest Realtors agreed. "People want bigger homes because they're working from home. ... People want bigger and better kitchens, too, since everyone learned how to make sourdough bread."

As buyers try to navigate 2022's real estate market, they should know there's still hope.

"It's out there, that's what I always tell my buyers," Kent said.

Conti noted that the key to surviving as a buyer in 2022 is patience and a good real estate agent.

"You really need a thick skin right now. ... Don't fall in love too hard with any one house, and learn patience. ... Eventually, we'll get it."

While Ruzicka's advice may seem a little counterintuitive for those who believe timing is everything, he's adamant about not trying to time the market.

"The best time to buy or sell is when it makes sense for you in your personal situation," Ruzicka said.

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Samantha Hendrickson can be reached at 414-223-5383 or shendrickson@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @samanthajhendr.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Demand far outpacing supply in Milwaukee area housing market in 2022