What It’s Like to Buy a House During the Pandemic

Three MilMag editors talk about their experiences buying and selling homes in 2020.

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The Homebuyers

Lindsey Anderson

BOUGHT IN: Riverwest
MOVED FROM: Apartment in Walker’s Point
WHEN: November 2020

Chris Drosner

BOUGHT IN: East Wauwatosa
MOVED FROM: House in West Wauwatosa
WHEN: May 2020

Allison Garcia

BOUGHT IN: Greendale
MOVED FROM: Parents’ house in Muskego
WHEN: September 2020


LA: My biggest surprise was the limited inventory. We knew going in that there weren’t going to be a lot of houses available, but we were still surprised by exactly how limited the inventory was, especially in Walker’s Point. Initially, we were hoping to stay in that neighborhood, and eventually decided to branch out more. Houses just weren’t coming available – or would sell the next day for $30,000 over asking.

AG: When we started looking, we wanted to be thoughtful in our choices and see a lot of places. We were prepared to go slowly, but the market was not with us. It was very overwhelming to be in a house, seeing it for the first time, and have to decide before you leave if you’re going to buy it.

LA: We had that happen to us with a couple open houses. They would casually mention halfway through the tour, “We got another offer. We’re probably going to decide by this evening. So don’t stress out.”

CD: Our house sold in February, and we kind of assumed the pace would slow down with the pandemic. But weeks later, we were feeling pretty desperate because we needed to get out – that deadline day was closing in. We found basically exactly what we wanted, but it was the last hurrah before we were going to have to look at rentals. We had a lot riding on our offer, so we offered over asking, but it wasn’t that $30K over you saw, Lindsey.

LA: We learned after the fact that we didn’t put the highest offer in on the house we got. Someone else bid a little more than we did, but we put more money down and waived expenses after the inspection up to two grand. I think that was enough to help us win.

CD: I was surprised at how much all those secondary things play into the offer. Because when we received five or six offers to choose from our house, we sold to the second highest because the buyers had a flexible move-in date where we could rent from them for a month after closing to give us more time to buy.

AG: We actually offered sight unseen on our house before it even hit the market. The owner, a really nice older woman, wanted to list the house but wasn’t sure about COVID and needed to get her house cleared out. So they listed it on delayed status, so no one can tour it, but you can make an offer on it. Our offer was for asking price, but with the condition that when we got to tour it once it was listed, we could walk away for whatever reason. She went with our offer because she really didn’t want a bunch of people coming through her house in the middle of the pandemic when she was still living there.

CD: That sounds super scary, buying the biggest thing you’ll ever buy in your lifetime without even seeing it!

AG: In total, including the house that we bought, we made five offers. So by this point we were exhausted. We were talking to our Realtor (Warren Matson from First Weber), like, “What do we do?” He started knocking on doors, calling houses asking if they are selling, in the neighborhoods that we liked. And he was asking other Realtors. We couldn’t have done it without a Realtor in this case. He worked overtime for us.


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s March issue.

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