The real estate market in Milwaukee is like an unstoppable force, similar to the championship Green Bay Packers. Demand for affordable homes in Milwaukee is perpetually hot, and lack of inventory is driving prices up.
Demand for rental property in Milwaukee is robust as well, with the city ranking among the top 10 for adaptive reuse conversions of older commercial buildings into residential rental units. In fact, rising rental prices continue to make it difficult for renters to buy a home, creating a potential win-win for real estate investors over both the short- and long-term.
Located along the western shore of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin and less than a two-hour drive from Chicago. A large number of German immigrants arrived in the early 1800s, helping to put Milwaukee on the map with its beer brewing traditions and earning the nickname “Brew City.”
But there’s a lot more to Milwaukee than just beer, brats, and real estate. Read on to learn about the diverse economy and quality attracting investor to Milwaukee in 2021.
While the most recent estimate shows a slight decline in Milwaukee’s population, city officials beg to differ. A spokesman from the Milwaukee Department of Community Development notes that estimates have frequently been wrong, and that Milwaukee is actually growing with surrounding suburbs like Oak Creek and Waukesha gaining residents.
Key Population Stats:
- The City of Milwaukee has a population of nearly 600,000 and there are about 1.6 million residents in the Milwaukee metropolitan area.
- Population of Milwaukee has declined by .008% year-over-year.
- Median household income in Milwaukee has grown by 2.01% over the past 12 months.
- Since 2010 the population of metro Milwaukee has grown by 1.3%, according to a recent report from WPR.
- Milwaukee is the third-most densely populated metro area in the Midwest, just behind Chicago and Detroit.
- Median age in Milwaukee is 38.2 years, with 39% of the population between the ages of 20 and 49.
- Local real estate agents note that regardless of a minor population loss or gain, they’re seeing multiple offers on Milwaukee homes, including properties not even listed on the MLS.
WisBusiness News reported in September 2019 that Milwaukee ranks among the top 17 “Rust Belt” cities for economic recovery since the financial crisis. In fact, the metro area ranks seventh for both population growth and unemployment reduction. Incomes have grown by nearly 5% over the past decade, while unemployment has fallen by nearly 29%.
With a current unemployment rate of just 6.3%, the economy of Milwaukee is quickly rebounding. According to the BLS, employment sectors showing the fastest signs of recovery include construction, trade and transportation, and financial activities.
Key Employment Stats:
- GDP of Milwaukee is over $93.9 billion, an increase of nearly 13% over the past decade.
- Job growth in Milwaukee was 0.7% year-over-year and the unemployment rate is currently 6.3% (Oct. 2020).
- Cost of living in Milwaukee is 3% below the national average, according to Forbes.
- Industry sectors in Milwaukee showing the biggest historic job gains include services, education and healthcare, and trade and transportation, according to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC).
- Fortune 500 companies located in Milwaukee are Johnson Controls, Northwestern Mutual, the world’s third-largest staffing firm ManpowerGroup, Rockwell Automation, Harley-Davidson, and mining equipment manufacturing firm Joy Global.
- Major companies in Milwaukee and the metropolitan area include Briggs & Stratton, Alliance Federated Energy, Wisconsin Energy, residential and commercial water heater manufacturer A.O. Smith, Master Lock, and GE Healthcare Diagnostic Imaging and Clinical Systems.
- Colleges and universities in the Milwaukee area include Marquette University, Mount Mary University, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
- Health care facilities in Milwaukee include St. Luke’s Medical Center, The Wisconsin Heart Hospital, and Ronald McDonald House.
- 36.4% of the people in Milwaukee hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- More than 92% of the people in Milwaukee are high school graduates or higher.
- Interstate highways intersecting Milwaukee include I-94 to Chicago, I-43, I-41, I-794, and I-894.
- The Port of Milwaukee is a global trade hub handling 2.3 million metric tons of cargo each year and serving southeastern Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota, and northern Illinois.
- Freight rail providers Union Pacific Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway operate out of the Port.
- Passenger traffic at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee (MKE) exceeded seven million travelers last year, while freight cargo shipments at MKE grew by more than 3% to 84,000 tons.
Real Estate Market
Buyers here are looking for homes below their price range, because they know in order to buy a home in Milwaukee they will have to pay over the asking price.
As CBS 58 recently reported, the real estate market in Milwaukee is like nothing people have experienced before. Millennials are getting into the market and baby boomers are moving. With only a six week supply of inventory on the market, buyers have to act quickly and with a larger amount of money.
Key Market Stats:
- Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI) for Milwaukee is $163,980 as of June 2021.
- Home values in Milwaukee have increased by 19.6% over the last year.
- Over the past five years home values in Milwaukee have increased by 64%.
- Median list price of a single-family home in Milwaukee is $165,000 based on the most recent report from Realtor.com (June 2021).
- Median listing price per square foot for a home in Milwaukee is $98.
- Days on market (median) is 43.
- Median sold price for a single-family home in Milwaukee is $190,900.
- Sale-to-list price ratio is 103.2%, which means that on average homes in Milwaukee are selling for the full asking price.
- Of the 176 neighborhoods in Milwaukee, Juneau Town is the most expensive with a median listing price of $322,400.
- Most affordable neighborhood in Milwaukee to buy a home is Franklin Heights where the median list price of a home is $70,500.
Strong Renters’ Market
The demand for rental property in Milwaukee is so strong that conversions of older buildings into apartments have reached an all time high. As WisBusiness recently reported, Milwaukee ranks among the top 10 cities nationally for repurposing buildings such as former factories and warehouses into apartments and rental units.
Key Market Stats:
- Median rent in Milwaukee for a 3-bedroom unit is $1,268 per month, according to Zumper (as of July 2021).
- Rents in Milwaukee have increased by 1% year-over-year.
- 33% of the rental units in Milwaukee rent for between $1,001 and $1,500 per month based on the most recent report by RENTCafé (June 2021).
- Renter-occupied households in Milwaukee account for 45% of the total occupied housing units in the metropolitan area.
- Most affordable neighborhoods in Milwaukee for renters are Washington Park, North Division, and Midtown where rents are $750 per month or less.
- Neighborhoods in Milwaukee most expensive for renters include Juneau Town, Kilbourn Town, and Lower East Side where rents go as high as $2,488 per month.
Historic Price Changes & Housing Affordability
Every month Freddie Mac publishes its House Price Index (FMHPI) report that gives investors information on current and historic home price changes in Milwaukee. Kiplinger reviews data from ATTOM Data Solutions to track longer-term housing prices and rank the affordability of homes in Milwaukee.
The most recent FMHPI from Freddie Mac for house prices in the Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI MSA reveals:
- May 2016 HPI: 132.0
- May 2021 HPI: 186.5
- 5-year change in house prices: 41.3%
- One-year change in house prices: 14.9%
- Monthly changed in house prices: 1.2%
Home price data from ATTOM Data Solutions was recently analyzed by Kiplinger to determine the affordability of housing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin:
- Since the peak of the last real estate cycle, home prices in Milwaukee have decreased by 13.4%.
- Since the last real estate cycle market bottom, home prices in Milwaukee have grown by nearly 47%.
- Housing affordability in Milwaukee is ranked as 2 out of 10, meaning that the Milwaukee metro area is one of the more affordable places to own a home in the U.S.
Quality of Life
When it comes to desirability, value, job market, and overall quality of life, Milwaukee receives strong scorecard rankings from U.S. News & World Report. Affordable rents, low unemployment, and a thriving nightlife and restaurant scene attract both Millennials and Boomers alike.
Key Quality of Life Stats:
- The Milwaukee area receives high ratings for diversity and as one of the best places in the U.S. for young professionals, according to Niche.com.
- More than 53% of the residents of Milwaukee are single.
- During the winter, ice skating and sledding are popular outdoor pastimes, while hiking and boating enthusiasts love the weather during summer and fall.
- Average commute times in Milwaukee are just 23.1 minutes.
- Nearby big cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Des Moines, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Louisville, and Detroit are each less than a seven hour drive from Milwaukee.
- The Hop light rail system offers free rides from the Milwaukee Public Market up through East Town, Yankee Hill, and the Lower East Side neighborhoods.
- Summerfest is the world’s largest music festival and takes place every year along the Milwaukee Lakefront.
- Theatre companies in Milwaukee include the Milwaukee Ballet, the Florentine Opera, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
- Beer brewers Schlitz, Blatz, Pabst, and Miller made Milwaukee the #1 beer producing capital in the world, while today there are taverns and craft breweries in almost every neighborhood.
- Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley are two sitcoms from the 1970s and 1980s that were set in Milwaukee.
- NBA Milwaukee Bucks and the MLB Milwaukee Brewers give sports fans something to cheer about, while most NFL fans root for the Green Bay Packers in Milwaukee’s northern neighboring city.
Get Out the Map
Where to begin your search? Roofstock created a heat map of Milwaukee based on our Neighborhood Rating, a dynamic algorithm that enables you to make informed investment decisions by measuring school district quality, home values, employment rates, income levels and other vital investment criteria.
DARK GREEN: 4-5 star neighborhood
LIGHT GREEN: 3.5-4 star neighborhood
YELLOW: 2.5-3 star neighborhood
ORANGE: 2 star neighborhood
RED: 1 star neighborhood
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