My old work buddy, Pete, and I were catching up over a beer when he brought up the La Crosse girl who started buying, renovating, and selling homes last year with the help of her grandfather. Thinking she’d have to pay her own way through college someday, the 11-year-old wanted to start investing in real estate at a young age in an effort to save as much money as possible and as quickly as possible. It’s an inspiring story. For Pete, it’s also a somewhat intimidating one. I’ve been flipping houses in Wisconsin for a couple of decades now, having left my corporate job not long after I started it, but Pete elected to stay at his desk until recently. However, he’s decided to finally switch things up and attempt to make a career out of real estate investing. He’s a little worried that his age and Wisconsin’s tightening housing market will work against him though. Those concerns, I told him, had less to do with succeeding as an investor than he thought.
An Overview of Flipping Houses in Wisconsin
To succeed at flipping houses, you’ve got to be able to find real estate investment opportunities that you can buy, renovate, and sell at a price that leaves enough room for realizing solid returns. Of course, you won’t typically see the kind of returns that get a lot of media attention on house-flipping shows. But, it is possible to achieve an ROI that allows you to buy, rehab, and sell another property—and put some cash in your pocket—setting you well on your way toward building a real estate investment business. Though most investors might not think of Wisconsin as the place to do it, it is, in fact, a great place to invest.
When the housing market crashed more than ten years ago, there were few regions in the U.S. that weren’t affected. There were many, however, that didn’t regularly make national headlines as the worst hit. Wisconsin, overshadowed by states like Nevada, Florida, and California, rarely popped up on the media’s radar. But, America’s Dairyland did take some hits. In fact, several cities and townships, like those located within Oneida, Bayfield, and Burnett counties, are still struggling to recover. In Lake Tomahawk, Herbster, and Webster, for example, median home values remain almost 30% below what they were 20 years ago, according to data analyzed by Forbes.
But, the state overall has seen a steady increase in median home sales prices in the last ten years and some areas, like Green Bay and Madison, have reached heights not seen even before the crash. In fact, in all of Brown County—not just in Green Bay—median home sales prices are up to almost $185,000 from just under $160,000 in 2008, according to the Wisconsin Realtors® Association (WRA). And, throughout Madison’s Dane County, median home sales prices have jumped to a whopping $286,000 from $220,000 during the same time period. Obviously, these shifts aren’t quite as dramatic as those being experienced by larger metro areas, like Los Angeles, but they’re significant enough to make investors like me take note.
But, at first glance, it can also be easy to become concerned. When the demand for housing outpaces available inventory, like it has throughout Wisconsin, home prices climb. That’s good news for homeowners who may have been waiting to sell until they could get out with some equity or for those who may still be struggling to make their mortgage payments. But, it can be bad news for investors who don’t have off-market leads on motivated sellers and who may have to compete with traditional buyers on pricey fixer-uppers. If more homeowners decide to take advantage of current market conditions and attempt to sell their homes for top dollar, a flood of inventory could easily stall and even reverse, the rise in sales prices that home sellers are counting on—and that you may be hoping to rely on.
The time for cynicism, however, isn’t here yet. Wisconsin continues to maintain a lower cost of living than many states in the U.S. and unemployment is less than three percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These are big pulls for both individuals and families who are getting pushed out of pricier areas with higher rates, and risk, of unemployment. The state’s affordability and stable job market also create a strong case for local residents looking to stay close to home to buy their first house. It’s this group that actually makes up about 40% of all current Milwaukee home buyers, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal, and that is, in turn, contributing to the area’s housing squeeze. So, even if inventory does experience an expansion in the near future, the demand for housing, at least in Wisconsin’s major metropolitan areas, is likely to keep pace.
But, whether the inventory on the open market expands or contracts, there are always ways to find fixer-upper homes for sale in Wisconsin that you can buy, renovate, and sell at a price that appeals to potential home buyers. Investing in real estate is a numbers game, as they say. But, getting the numbers—and the rehab—right requires having the best tools and resources at your disposal in any market, as opposed to being the right age or getting started at the right time.
Get the Best View of a Better Way to Invest in Any Market
I wasn’t exactly a spring chicken when I started investing in real estate and I didn’t have any family or friends who were capable of getting me started either. But, I had the next best thing. As an independently owned and operated HomeVestors® franchisee, I had some of the best training, tools, and resources I needed to get me buying, rehabbing, and selling houses as soon as possible. And, because I was already familiar with the meaning of hard work, I also had the necessary elbow grease to put to good use all the great benefits of joining the HomeVestors® team. It wasn’t my age or whether it was a buyers’ or sellers’ market that made the difference in my success. It was being one of the more than 1,000 HomeVestors® franchisees who’ve bought more than 100,000 homes nationwide since 1996 that helped make the difference.
When it comes to changing careers, sometimes all you need is a better point of view. And, if you’re thinking about investing in Wisconsin real estate, like Pete, ask HomeVestors how you can get the best view of the opportunities to invest right here at home.
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