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The Older I Get…

…the younger my homes become. I’ll explain.

Sometimes stories shine a light on how to plan and accomplish a goal. Millennials face tough economic times. Just such a client recently affirmed this with the comment, “We’ve never known anything but a bad real estate market.”

At a young age (Boomer version of Millennial) I had a goal to buy a home. The process made life interesting and me happy. Life remains interesting. I remain happy.

The home was a cream city brick duplex, dilapidated and built in 1880. The rooms were small and sectioned off, which reflected the design of the period. I had little money so a friend and I bought the home with a plan to each own half. This approach afforded me the opportunity to buy a home. Mortgage rates were 14% so with research I found a loan program that allowed for a low-interest loan for the purchase and rehab at a lower rate.

The style is Italianate, a popular mode of home construction from 1850 to 1880. Italianate houses of  cream city brick had special character due to their masonry construction and craftsmanship. Note  the round window at the top-gable end.

Our plan was to demolish, redesign and re-construct the interior and return the painted brick to its  original cream city look. We worked our regular jobs from 8:00 – 5:00 then traded suits for boots  and jeans and worked from 6:00 p.m. to midnight. Six months of demolition and construction.

All the windows had been “modernized” and closed off with plywood, cutting the prime windows in  half. The windows were opened and large new windows installed. I ended up with 900 square feet of  great living space in one half of the building, a great upstairs neighbor and lifelong friend.

For perspective, using today’s dollars, the purchase was $144,000 with an additional $120,000 in rehab and all undertaken with a 5% down payment. I was broke when the work was completed and couldn’t afford a stove. It was summer so my first month’s dining was prepared on a small outside grill. The home became the logo for Homebuyer Associates. But I needed a younger home.

Four years later a nearby cottage, built in 1890 (younger than my previous home) sat vacant, damaged and uninhabitable. I purchased the home for $54,000 (today’s dollars).

An architect friend completed the design and friends and I did the demolition. I acted as the general contractor to complete the rehab and new construction, creating a one-bedroom unit for me and a two-bedroom unit for rental. The rehab cost was $167,000 (today’s dough). Mortgage rates were 12.5%; again the purchase and rehab were funded with low-cost government loans and 5% down payment.

The cottage was one of Milwaukee’s earliest speculative housing types. Constructed from 1875-1915, cottages were built as a one or one and one-half story gabled roof home of wood frame construction to house the workers of Milwaukee’s growing industries.

Early on my goal was to pay for a mortgage – not rent – in the hope I’d create equity. I did. Maybe you are new to the concept of home ownership and just beginning the housing journey. I didn’t have the benefit of someone working for me. It’s why I started Homebuyer Associates.

There is too much at stake financially to not take the time to understand  who does and does not work for you when buying a home – and  protecting your money is important in the process.

 People tell me I’m kind of direct.  Note your questions, contact us,  and Seamus or I (directly) will answer them over a cup of Joe.

Next issue: Getting younger still, wherein I’ll continue on my housing journey and the housing styles that interested me.

Thanks for reading,
Michael D. Holloway

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Homebuyer Associates
1835 N. Riverwalk Way
Milwaukee, WI 53212
Phone: 414-254-4129