Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm
How much home will $1 million buy? The answer to that question, of course, depends upon where you are looking. In southeastern Wisconsin, $1 million could buy a spacious home with more than 40 acres of land in a suburban county, a downtown Milwaukee condominium with fantastic views of Lake Michigan or a home in need of significant remodeling on a much-sought-after lake near the Illinois border.
Do you prefer the hustle and bustle of downtown, or the peace and quiet of the countryside?
Homes costing a $1 million or more used to be freakish anomalies for the ultra-rich in the region, but they are becoming more commonplace as two-income baby boom households finish raising their children or prepare for retirement. Many are willing to take on large mortgages, in the hopes that their investment will grow in value over time.
Rising land prices, increased values of lake properties, low interest rates and new construction costs have helped propel real estate prices in the past five to 10 years, creating more homes worth $1 million than ever before, said Katie Falk, who has her own agency with Realty Executives based in Whitefish Bay.
"It used to be that you could buy a very nice home in Whitefish Bay for about $400,000," she said. "Today … anybody with a lot slightly bigger than 75 by 100 feet can get more than $400,000 for just the land."
SBT set out to find $1 million residences in each of the eight counties it covers: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Walworth, Kenosha, Racine, Ozaukee, Washington and Sheboygan. The following report examines some of those $1 million homes.
People who want to live in or near the city and are willing to spend about $1 million still have their choices in location.
The newest downtown residential high-rises, Kilbourn Tower and University Club Tower, have condos selling for $1 million or more. Both towers feature views of Lake Michigan and downtown, with attached parking structures, concierge service and close proximity to restaurants, entertainment venues and other attractions. University Club Tower, developed by Mandel Group, has a 2,368-square-foot unit on the 20th floor with one bedroom and 1.5 bathrooms, selling for $1.08 million.
"It comes down to money and lifestyle," said Dick Glaisner, managing partner at Kilbourn Tower, which was developed by Fiduciary Real Estate Development. "The value takes a different twist. The twist is that while you may not get big acreage, you will get exclusivity in what is arguably the best location in the city."
However, if city living, Lake Michigan views and close proximity to entertainment venues aren’t priorities, there are other choices.
In River Hills, just west of Port Washington Road and south of Brown Deer Road, a 6,000-square-foot home with five bedrooms, four full and two half-bathrooms on about five acres is currently selling for $998,000. The home, built in 1954, was recently remodeled.
"The property is magnificent," said Len Golden, a Realtor with Shorewest Realtors who is listing the home. "There are five acres, and you can basically see all five from the house. You can see the whole property. It doesn’t matter what the season is. You can walk into the living room or dining room and each has a view to it."
There are numerous trees on the property, along with extensive landscaping that includes a hidden automatic sprinkler system. The home also features a large outdoor deck and a swimming pool. A non-attached shed features a heated kennel area for large dogs.
The Lake Country area has several $1 million homes with lake frontage.
In the Town of Delafield on Pewaukee Lake, a four-bedroom, four-bathroom home with about 50 feet of lake frontage is listed for about $995,000.
"(The value is) because of the lake frontage and the value on the lakes in Lake Country has risen dramatically," said Paul Liebe, a broker with Redefined Realty who is showing the property. "It’s that, and there have been substantial renovations to it."
The lake frontage is considered good for swimming and boating, Liebe said. The property includes a new boat lift and pier.
The home was recently renovated, and its interior includes two Lannon stone floor-to-ceiling fireplaces, made even more dramatic by the home’s cathedral ceilings. The first floor also has exotic Brazilian hardwood floors.
A finished basement includes a second full kitchen with its own set of appliances, which can be used for entertaining, Liebe said.
Demand for property in Walworth County that has lake frontage continues to be near rabid levels. A home on Lake Beulah in East Troy recently sold for almost $1 million, even though the home was 30 years old and in need of significant remodeling.
"It’s very close to a fixer-upper," said Judy Skotarzak, a Realtor with Realty Executives Integrity. The house, even though it is about 30 years old, will not be torn down because of its unique design.
"The master suite is kind of suspended over the whole house," Skotarzak said. "It’s unique. I’ve never seen anything like it. If it was a plain home, it would be torn down."
Another home in the area, also on the lake, recently sold for $1.15 million and will be torn down.
For someone looking for more land, a 35-acre parcel with a 5,262-square-foot, two-story brick estate home is listed for $999,990 in the Town of Salem in Kenosha County.
"It’s away from everything, but close to everything," said Linda Swan, an agent with RE/MAX. "It’s very rare to find that acreage with an estate on it."
The property includes 10 to 15 acres of wetlands, which harbor deer, coyote, fox and other wildlife, she said.
It also has a 60-foot by 107-foot custom pole barn, which has offices, its own kitchen, gym area and bathroom.
"It’s all heated, and there’s plenty of room to keep big toys," Swan said.
The estate would be a good place to keep horses, she said, because it has enough room to ride and abuts other properties with similar acreage. There is some vacant land in the area as well.
The home has Brazilian granite floors, an in-ground swimming pool and a separate in-law suite featuring a second master bedroom and kitchen. The first floor also has a billiards room.
The home alone would justify a sale price of close to $1 million, Swan said.
"It justifies itself without the acreage," she said. "And the land with the house and setting makes it."
The property could also be subdivided, if someone wanted to recoup some of the costs, she said.
If privacy and the ability to fish on your own property is a priority, there is a home on about 5.4 acres in Yorkville listing at $999,000. The property includes a two-acre private pond stocked with fish, along with extensive landscaping and mature trees.
The 4,300-square-foot home is located at the end of a cul-de-sac on Twin Waters Lane. Even though there are other homes nearby, the home was designed with views that don’t show the other homes, said June Eilers, a Realtor with Century 21.
"The setting is like a private park," she said. "Especially in summer, you don’t see any of the other homes in there."
A finished basement includes a second kitchen, a second family room and an attached spa room with hot tub. Above the hot tub room is a four-season sun room attached to the master suite, Eilers said.
"It’s a perfect place to sit and read or drink a cup of coffee," she said.
Cedarburg offers a more suburban setting for those looking to spend in the $1 million range. The area has grown much in the past 10 years and is still attractive to new development.
A newly built 5,500-square-foot home on Red Tail Court, listed at $999,900, has three levels, including a finished basement, five bedrooms and four full bathrooms, with one half bath.
The porch is built in decorative stamped concrete, with a corner element that has a gazebo design to it, said Kathleen Bucholz, a Realtor with RE/MAX Realtors who is showing the home.
The home’s first floor features extensive crown molding, custom painting, oak floors and a dramatic entryway with a cathedral ceiling and curved stairway to the second floor.
"This house is very dramatic," Bucholz said.
The basement has been completely finished and has an area that could
be turned into a game room or fifth bedroom. It also includes both a home theater with plasma TV and Surround Sound system, and a full kitchen for entertaining.
The home includes an attached four-car, two-story garage, that has an inside set of stairs leading directly to the lower level of the home. The grading of the home will allow a second driveway to be added in the future to the lower level of the garage. Bucholz said a homeowner could have in-laws or an adult child living in the lower level with minimal contact from upstairs occupants.
The garage also has a large room above it that could be used for a play room, gym or home office. That room has plenty of natural light, with skylights and a cathedral ceiling.
For those looking for both privacy and extensive wildlife viewing, Washington County has both wide open spaces and close proximity to the metro Milwaukee area.
A Town of Erin home on a 7.8 acre parcel of land is listed at $980,000. The home is surrounded by hardwood and evergreen trees, offers privacy, views of Holy Hill and glimpses of wild turkey, deer and many other animals. The home has a wrap-around porch to maximize its views.
"You can’t try to find a 7.8 acre parcel in Washington County," said Laura Kruschka, a Realtor with Shorewest who is showing the home.
An outdoor swimming pool has been positioned to get maximum sunshine, heating its water naturally.
A spa room with cathedral ceilings is attached to the home just off of a deck near the pool, featuring a hut tub, wine refrigerator and a pot-belly style gas stove, allowing the room to be used in all seasons comfortably.
The home also features a gourmet kitchen, with convection ovens and a commercial grade range. The family room has a large floor-to-ceiling.
The master bedroom has a two-sided fireplace, with a sitting area on one side and a whirlpool tub on the other side. The master bath also includes a TV built into a large mirror.
"All of the amenities have been discretely installed," Kruschka said. "There has been a lot of thought where things have been placed. Nothing looks like it was a second thought."
In Oostburg, about 40 minutes north of Milwaukee, a 3,000-square-foot, custom-designed home sits on the Lake Michigan shoreline along North Pine Beach Road. Selling for about $975,000, the home features three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Due to the light-colored sand dunes and the waterfront, the home and its immediate surroundings don’t feel like they’re in the Milwaukee area, said Valentina Barbatelli, a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Mortgage.
"It feels like the East Coast," she said. "You can walk for miles on the beaches."
The property, at almost two acres, is the last home on the road, giving it a sense of privacy, she said.
The home itself is unique – it was designed and built by a Chicago-area architect in 1991. A large deck, positioned between the kitchen and master bedroom, faces the beach. The position of the deck allows for both striking lake views and shelter from the near-constant winds, Barbatelli said.
"You feel like you’re a long way from Chicago or Milwaukee when you’re there," Barbatelli said. "I have had a number of clients who over the years have bought and sold homes on lakes, and in the period of two to three years, they’ve made good money."