Homes are a steal in southeastern Wisconsin

North of the Border

First comes the job, then comes housing.

Most employees will purchase a home for less than $300,000 in Wisconsin, said Mike Ruzicka, president of the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors, but they’d better act fast.

A home for sale in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.

“There’s no new supply coming in that category,” as higher interest rates prevent upsizing, he said. But the flipside is that “if you go over $400,000, we aren’t seeing many multiple offers.”

What attracts people to buy in Wisconsin? If companies are near the border, workers could, after all, remain living in Illinois.

“Wisconsin is well-known for having good schools from the Milwaukee area all the way to the state line,” Ruzicka said. “Housing costs, in general, are less expensive in Wisconsin than Illinois, especially in the Chicago area. It’s easier to get around in Milwaukee. The one negative is we don’t have a mass transit system like in Chicago.”

Steve Beers, of Keefe Real Estate in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin agrees: “What we’re seeing is people coming north to Wisconsin to live, whether their business is here or (better) quality of life with lower taxes and good schools.”

Patti Kirchhoff – who works out of Beers’ office – is licensed in both states and has an office in Woodstock, Illinois.

“What is pushing people out of Illinois is the obvious – the taxes,” she said.

A home for sale in Lake Forest, Illinois.

A $250,000 home in Woodstock, is taxed at $7,000 (at a rate of $2.80 per $1,000), 87.4 percent higher than a Lake Geneva home of the same value, which carries $3,725 in taxes (at a rate of $1.49 per $1,000). Illinois’ income tax rate is 4.95 percent (an increase in 2017 from 3.75 percent) while Wisconsin’s ranges from 4 percent to 7.65 percent, depending on income.

Realtor Annette Zielinski, who relocated from Barrington, Illinois, to Keller Williams’ North Shore office in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin last year, thinks Lake Geneva is an incredible bargain for those relocating to Kenosha and Racine counties for work. Condos often list for just more than $200,000.

“Lake Geneva offers the golf-course communities and a wide range of condos around the lake,” she said.

Kenosha and Racine counties offer easy access to Chicago and Milwaukee for arts and other cultural opportunities, she said.

“You get a lot more house for $1.2 million in Wisconsin than in Illinois,” Ruzicka said.

A direct home comparison

A lakefront home in the Milwaukee North Shore suburb of Whitefish Bay, a five-bedroom, 4.5-bath property – built in 1931, and modernized with a chef-grade kitchen and new lower-level living space – is listing for $1,774,900. Comparatively, an equally charming French Provincial five-bedroom historical home in Lake Forest, Illinois, with four baths (plus two half baths), boasting a pool and coach house, and also along Lake Michigan, is on the market for $3,995,000.

Home price comparisons

Lake County, Illinois

Kenosha County, Wisconsin

Racine County, Wisconsin

Milwaukee County, Wisconsin

Median listing price

$319,900

$214,000

N/A

$154,900

Median listing price per square foot

$157

$141

$122

$118

Median sale price

$245,200

$167,800

$158,300

$165,600

Median home value

$236,100

$182,300

$228,500

$156,800

Average days on Zillow

105

51

58

74

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