Best Places to Live

When Jeff and Linda Feist bought their West Milwaukee bungalow in 1990 for about $60,000, they expected to upgrade a few years later. Twenty-three years have gone by, and the house, which today sits in the shadow of Miller Park, is still home to the family of five. But they’re finally looking to change that.

Crunching through the frozen snow in January, the Feists approached a gray colonial on a corner lot in Franklin, just down the road from the Milwaukee County Sports Complex. The house is listed at $228,900 and would be an upgrade, both in square footage – from 1,200 to 1,500 – and bedrooms – from two to three. The house also has charm, a must for Jeff.

The Franklin colonial opens to cathedral ceilings and a stone-outfitted gas fireplace. But it doesn’t get Jeff’s approval. “Dated,” he says. “I’m more or less looking at what I’m going to change right away.” Unconcerned with the purely cosmetic – like the home’s nautical theme – this pragmatic couple wants room to entertain the friends of their three sons, ages 19, 15 and 10. They want to be close to their jobs (Pick ’n Save in Hales Corners, and Kopp’s at 76th and Layton in Greenfield), and they want to continue to send their kids to private school. The Feists are about living within their means, a lifestyle reality many were forced to face when the real estate bubble burst.

But there’s still a large variable for the Feists: their bungalow. “We have an idea what we’ll be able to sell it for,” Jeff says, but “so many homes in our area have sat and sat.” One such home was a 1,300-square-foot bungalow on South 54th Street. Listed for $129,000 in May 2012, it sold for just $88,000 in September after one price reduction and more than 130 days on the market.

Still, the Feists remain optimistic while on the hunt for their new home. The discriminating couple has been looking seriously for a few months, but this one in Franklin won’t be the winner. The Feists’ agent, First Weber’s Colette Petitt, assures them the market will be flooded with new properties come spring. A thaw, of sorts. “Because the market is looking up,” she says, “I’ve been really busy meeting with people who are getting their homes ready that have been waiting for the past couple of years.”

Since the housing market crash in 2008, recovery in the metro area has been slow, but real estate agents are hopeful 2013 might be the year it regains its footing.

Home sales were up in 2012 – 23.6 percent in the city of Milwaukee and 22.7 percent in the five-county metro area excluding the city – though prices continued to stagnate at lower levels. Milwaukee saw a 2 percent decrease in sale price, while the five-county area saw a modest 0.3 percent increase, meaning the average home sold for just $667 more in 2012 than in 2011.

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