Shovel Ready?

As winter finally gave way to spring and the region’s homebuilders embarked on plans to break new ground, Kristine Hillmer, executive director for the Metropolitan Builders Association, began to fret. Her concern? A shortage of skilled labor. She quickly cobbled together a panel to find solutions, including partnering with high school trade programs and technical colleges to increase the ranks of homebuilders. “The Metropolitan Builders Association is starting a concerted effort to ensure a labor pipeline of educated and dedicated employees,” she says. According to the National Association of Builders, 20 percent of economic expansion is tied to housing, so…

Sweet Little Money Maker

No spot on Madeline Island is far from Lake Superior. Photo by Dustin Scholl With demand on the rise for vacation homes in Wisconsin, many industrious would-be landlords are snatching up houses in the northern wilds of the state and renting them out as a second profession. Judy and Dan Lang of Milwaukee went as far as taking out a second mortgage on their Milwaukee residence to purchase a pair of homes on Madeline Island, located at the northern edge of Wisconsin on Lake Superior. The Langs hope to clear at least $20,000 in profit in six years from renting…

The Hangover

Illustration by Leslie Herman Last June, Shorewest Realtor Kate Fritsch had what looked like a brisk sale lined up: $153,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bath condo in Whitefish Bay. The seller had already moved out. The buyer, expecting to pay some $15,000 below assessed value, was ready to bring in the moving vans. Everything looked great. Only one big hurdle remained: An appraiser, hired by the buyer’s bank, had to affirm that the condo was worth the price – and the resulting mortgage. And that’s when the deal ran aground. The appraisal came in at a mere $124,000, shocking Fritsch, the…

No Place Like Home

Pointing to your 60-inch Wolf Appliance cooking range and proclaiming it was manufactured in humble Dane County, Wis., has a certain cache. Many high-ticket items for the home are made thousands of miles away, but enough are assembled in this state, steeped as it is in manufacturing, that there are plenty of opportunities to invite the buy-local movement into your abode – right down to the fireplace screen and the bathroom sink. Glass Fireplace Doors  Varies by dealer / Design Specialties, Milwaukee Keep it cozy this winter with fireplace doors made on the city’s Northwest Side. Styles include satin nickel…

Trading Post

Illustration by Neil Webb/Getty Images Candy Slane can’t resist the bargains she digs up on Craigslist – wood for her family’s fireplace, a loft bed for her daughter, a tractor. Yep, a tractor. There’s not much that isn’t sold, bartered and traded online these days, which might be darn good news for folks who also need to unload some real estate. And that’s exactly where Slane finds herself. Her albatross is a three-bedroom, two-bath unit at the Embassy Condominium complex in West Bend – her husband’s former bachelor pad – that she’s been trying to unload for about 2 1/2…

Pro Tips

Illustration by Marisa Seguin. By Steven Pease Their parents wanted to live where they could see the stars. They want to live where they can walk to bars. Such was the refrain from area real estate pros hit up for tips on what to purchase in today’s buyer’s market. More often than not, these magnates recommend investing in apartment projects located in well-appointed, walkable neighborhoods. They’re where Gen Y wants to live, and where older citizens are relocating after foreclosures and job losses. But that’s not all. We also asked said experts to put their money where their mouths are…

Off the Grid

Illustration by Marisa Seguin Stewart Dempsey’s friends thought he’d fallen into a money pit when, in 1988, he bought a 4,000-square-foot 1881 Beaux Arts Victorian home in Walnut Hill, a crime-ridden section of Milwaukee where homes were literally falling apart, including his. “Many people had looked at it and thought it was ready for the bulldozer,” says Dempsey, who spotted beauty in the old house’s wood beams, decorative plaster and period hardware. But saying he had a job ahead of him would’ve been an understatement. “There was much to do to get the original footprint of the house back.” It’s…

Down the Tubes

The sad remains of 2309 N. 46th St. Photo by Kris Wiktor In the first year that 2309 N. 46th St. was vacant, it was noisy. Break-ins stripped the house of its plumbing, wires and anything salable. It became little more than a husk with an address. George Wilson, who lives next door, often came home in that first year to find the empty house’s back door standing open. And at night, he’d hear noises coming from the weather-worn structure as “it was gutted.” All he could do was ignore them. Months later, when there was nothing left to loot,…

A Port Called Home

Photo by Adam Ryan Morris  For Rosemary and Jim Dolan, an empty nest was a cue to migrate. Minus their three sons, their 7,000-square-foot home on Dover Bay in Delafield just wasn’t the same. “Once the kids moved away, there wasn’t anything for us to do out there anymore,” says Jim, an obstetrician and gynecologist based in West Allis. They downsized. Sort of. In 2006, they bought a 2,000-square-foot condo on the Milwaukee River, one of the units at Harbor Front Condos on East Erie Street in the Third Ward. Like other Lake Country boat owners who have since moved…

Mall Madness

Photo by Adam Ryan Morris Heather Ellis is the envy of her friends. She lives at a mall, Bayshore Town Center, the complex cityscape built on and around the old Bayshore Mall in Glendale. And she loves it. Ellis, who moved in two years ago while attending UW-Milwaukee, now has a job at Bayshore promoting its events. The 24-year-old shares a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate – and guests. “Everyone wants to come to my place,” she says. It’s not hard to see why. Her apartment is one of many residential units on floors four through six in one of…