Top Places to Live: North of Milwaukee

Head north for space to spread out in proximity to the city.

With sprawling lawns (especially the farther north you go), upscale shopping centers and, for many places, access to Lake Michigan, North Shore communities from Shorewood on north into Ozaukee County capitalize on charm. It’s a mix of historic homes (from bungalows to mansions) and custom-builds where money is no object. People flock here for the solid schools – read: lots of families in these communities – and to be near the city (even from Cedarburg it’s a quick 30-minute drive).

Whitefish Bay

 {Going Big} 

Whitefish Bay; Listed Price: $1,285,000

Median Single-Family Price: $456,873
With a public high school named No. 1 in Wisconsin this year, “the school system is phenomenal,” says Julie Bulgrin of Gallagher Kies & Company. Average price per square foot sold in 2017 was $201, higher than the three previous years ($192 in 2015 and $195 in 2016). Despite the high prices, buyers continue to be drawn here, not only for the schools, but also for the sturdy and architecturally significant houses, low crime rate and close-knit community feel. East Silver Spring Drive evokes an old-fashioned Main Street vibe where new businesses like Pure Barre fitness studio mix with stalwarts like the beloved Winkie’s variety store. Bayshore Town Center’s chain stores are 2 miles west, offering more retail therapy. Much of the housing stock spans Dutch Colonial Revival, Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival. It’s not uncommon to find, when perusing listings, a red-tile Mediterranean-style roof, stucco exterior walls or exquisite interior ironwork.

Last year, Whitefish Bay residents, most of whom are drawn to the dense, walkable neighborhoods, expressed disgust at McMansions popping up – a testament to the community’s love for historic homes. Eight homes were built here in the last year.

Brown Deer

 {Starting Out} 
Median Single-Family Price: $159,549
Ranches with large yards, plus plenty of condos, are the dominant housing styles in this village of about 12,000 residents. It’s one of the area’s most ethnically diverse suburbs, with about 30 percent African-American residents. “Brown Deer is the perfect place to become a North Shore homeowner,” says Katie Gnau, a broker with Shorewest’s North Shore office. “There are many modestly sized homes with nice yards. Buyers and sellers rave about the proximity to North Shore amenities and good schools with great diversity.” A Wednesday farmers market from June through October serves as a social gathering for locals. According to MLS data, price per square foot during the second half of 2017 averaged between $100 and $125, compared with $150 per square foot in nearby River Hills. But be sure to factor in tax rates ($33.35 per $1,000 of value, the fifth-highest in Wisconsin).

Oooh la la! Pastiche Bistro & Wine Bar – formerly in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood – opened in Brown Deer in 2016, bringing escargot, coq au vin and other French delights to this North Shore community.

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Where to Live Now: Your Guide to the Top Places to Live in Milwaukee



Median Single-Family Price: $206,424
Now that the kids have fled the coop and you no longer have that soul-sucking work commute, is Kewaskum (pop. 4,004) calling? Many know the area in Washington County for its proximity to Kettle Moraine State Forest Northern Unit – hiking, fishing, skiing and cycling. “Kewaskum is fabulous for retirees and empty-nesters,” says Andrew Kuehl, a broker with Keller Williams Realty’s Kewaskum office. He points to two other outdoor wonders: Sunburst Ski Hill and Hon-E-Kor Country Club for rounds of golf. “There are a number of single-level condos being developed right now that would be perfect. It’s a quiet community, close to Milwaukee,” says Kuehl. Also for sale: open lots, so you can build exactly what you want.


 {Trading Up} 
Median Single-Family Price: $306,712
Betsy Wittenberger, a broker with First Weber Realtors in West Bend, has been selling homes in Germantown long enough (25 years, in fact) to spot a trend that hasn’t gone away. “Families that have raised their kids there also are likely to stay because [their children and grandchildren] are likely to settle there, too,” she says, pointing to “great access to the major highways and a short commute to Milwaukee.” Consequently, turnover in this community of around 20,000 is minimal. Homes are almost all of recent construction – a mix of “older” 1970s Colonials and custom properties built in this century listing for half a million dollars – with brick and aluminum siding. While all the big chain restaurants aren’t necessarily a draw, quirky indie businesses are, like Old Town Beer Hall, a mainstay since, get this, the late 1800s. Teens like the skate park in Haupt Strasse (in German, this means Main Street).

In 2015, Money ranked Germantown 37th in the nation on its annual “Best Places to Live” list, citing abundant green space and a Bavarian vibe to Main Street.

Midcentury Modern: Where to Look

Lori Foulke, a broker with Keller Williams Realty’s North Shore office, has crushed on midcentury modern homes for quite a while. She even lives inside one of these low-slung ranches. It’s an aesthetic that gained popularity thanks in part to the hit AMC television drama “Mad Men” about ad-agency employees during the 1960s in New York City. Naturally, selling midcentury modern homes is her specialty. “It’s somewhat unusual in this area to focus on an architectural style,” she says, adding that usually it’s a city or area that’s a listing agent’s specialty. Forty-five percent of Fox Point’s houses are midcentury modern in design (listing for between $265,000 and $419,000, depending on the neighborhood and property’s condition, per, she says, although Bayside and Glendale also play in that market, plus pockets of Wauwatosa, Brookfield, Greendale, Hales Corners and St. Francis. She’s noticed a trend in which Shorewood and Whitefish Bay residents come to Bayside and Fox Point to downsize, liking the lack of stairs.“They’re actually very thoughtfully designed,” she says about midcentury modern ranches, pointing to the floor-to-ceiling windows, support beams woven into the design and open-concept floor plans suited for entertaining.

In search of another style of architecture? Here’s where to look:

Brick bungalows: East Wauwatosa
Cream City brick: Brewers Hill
Stone: Cedarburg
Polish flats: Riverwest
Tudors: Washington Highlands and Enderis Park

‘Where to Live Now’ appears in the April 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning April 2nd, or buy a copy at

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A seasoned writer, and a former editor at Milwaukee Home & Fine Living, Kristine Hansen launched her wine-writing career in 2003, covering wine tourism, wine and food pairings, wine trends and quirky winemakers. Her wine-related articles have published in Wine Enthusiast, Sommelier Journal, Uncorked (an iPad-only magazine),, and Whole Living (a Martha Stewart publication). She's trekked through vineyards and chatted up winemakers in many regions, including Chile, Portugal, California (Napa, Sonoma and Central Coast), Canada, Oregon and France (Bordeaux and Burgundy). While picking out her favorite wine is kind of like asking which child you like best, she will admit to being a fan of Oregon Pinot Noir and even on a sub-zero winter day won't turn down a glass of zippy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.