Buying A Home in MilwaukeePurchasing A Home in Milwaukee

Whether you area a first-time buyer or experienced real estate investor, purchasing a home can be an exciting venture if you have the right team in place.

All of the tools you need for searching Milwaukee homes for sale are literally at your fingertips on this site, and we have done our best to give you as many options for drilling down your search by communities, neighborhoods and price ranges.

Contact Us if you would like a referral to a real estate agent to view any of the properties you find on our Milwaukee Real Estate site.

The Milwaukee Homebuying Process

Buying a home can be a complicated at times, especially when dealing with short sales or distressed foreclosure properties.

Since a lot has changed with the Wisconsin real estate market over the past several years, Milwaukee Home Center has outlined the steps involved in working with a real estate agent to find and get an offer accepted on a new property.

At A Glance – The Steps Involved In Buying A Home:

  • Get pre-qualified for a mortgage (unless you are buying with cash)
  • Choose a Neighborhood
  • Choose the Type and Style of your home
  • Preview properties online
  • Select a real estate agent to represent you
  • Make an offer on a property
  • Negotiate on a final purchase price
  • Have the property appraised and inspected
  • Sign final closing documents
  • Close on your purchase transaction

Obviously the bullets above have significantly simplified the entire homebuying process. There is a lot more to know about mortgages, title and escrow, appraisals, home inspections, selecting the right real estate agent, purchasing short sales or foreclosures….

Our goal with this Milwaukee home buying section of our website is to help prepare you with all of the information you need so that you will have the confidence you need to make an informed decision about the next home you buy in Milwaukee.

The following tabs on this page the home buying steps mentioned above.

Feel free to search available listings by clicking on the links to the right or using our Interactive Real Estate Property Map to drill down your home search criteria.

Preparing To Buy A Home in Milwaukee

Do you start by contacting an agent or mortgage professional first? Or, is it easier to search for Milwaukee properties online and then contact the listing agent when you have found something you’d like to look at?

At Milwaukee Home Center, we recommend investing a little time to educate yourself about the homebuying process and the local Milwaukee real estate market before jumping in the car with an agent or sitting down with a mortgage professional to get a pre-qualification letter.

Frequently Asked Questions

    The more questions you know to ask about buying a home in Milwaukee, the greater level of confidence you’ll have in making the right decision.

  • Q

    How do I know when I'm ready to buy a home?

    Buying a home is a personal decision that should not be taken lightly. Many people purchase real estate to live in when they plan on staying in the same location for more than 5 years.

    Your estate planner, CPA and attorney are great resources to consult about any potential benefits that you may gain from owning a home.

    Factors to consider include monthly payment, down payment, savings over renting vs buying, location and lifestyle.

    You should also consider the time you plan on staying in your property before either selling or renting it out and purchasing something new.

    Depending on whether we’re in a “Buyer’s” or Seller’s” market may also influence your decision to purchase real estate at any given moment.

  • Q

    What's the difference between a Buyer's and Seller's market?

    Simple economics is the rule of thumb here.

    Everyone wants to “buy low and sell high,” but the truth of the matter is there is no way that can happen for everyone, every time.

    Seller’s Market = More buyers than sellers (or available properties)

    Buyers Market = More sellers (or available properties) than buyers

    When there is limited inventory that multiple buyers are competing for, then sellers generally have the advantage of accepting the most favorable offer they receive. An experienced real estate agent representing a buyer knows how to present attractive offers that may be considered by a seller.

    On that note, having a solid mortgage pre-qualification letter or even a full conditional bank approval before shopping for homes is a wise decision, unless you are paying cash and not interested in leveraging your money with a mortgage loan.

  • Q

    Should I rent or buy a home right now?

    This can be a decision based on economics, your personal financial scenario or simply emotion.

    Renting tends to be a short-term solution, while purchasing real estate has longer lasting benefits or consequences.

    If interest rates appear to be moving up along with the price of homes, then securing a lower rate and purchase price now might make financial sense… provided you are considering purchasing real estate in the near future.

    However, if you are unsure about your future plans for living or a particular area for the next five years, then you may consider renting.

    Most people get in trouble with buying real estate to live in when they let the “investment opportunity” discussion dictate the outcome of this important decision.

    If you have decided to stay in one area for a while, and the cost of purchasing is less than renting, then it might be an easy choice to make.

  • Q

    What is a first-time home buyer?

    The term “First-Time Home Buyer” is defined differently, depending on which mortgage program or state grant a borrower is applying for. There are many mortgage programs that are tailored to new buyers and endorsed or guaranteed by the government to help increase home ownership opportunities.

    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, of which the Federal Housing Administration is a part, defines a first-time home buyer is anyone who has not bought a primary residence in the past three years.

    Also considered first-time buyers for the purposes of FHA programs are single parents and displaced homemakers who have recently returned to the workforce; someone whose primary residence falls short of local or state building codes and cannot be brought up to code for less than the cost of a new home; someone whose home is not permanently fixed to a foundation, such as a mobile home.

  • Q

    How many homes should I preview before I make an offer?

    As many as you need. The primary benefit of advanced technology with real estate is that buyers can literally search thousands of available properties online to get a good feel for neighborhoods, market patterns, local amenities, schools… and the list goes on.

    LOOK to right of this page for a quick drop down of links to pre-defined property searches to get started.

    You can also contact our real estate team to customize a no obligation automated search for you that will email you daily or instantly when something hits the market that matches your criteria.

    Keep in mind that the Internet cannot replace the experience and knowledge real estate professionals who know the landscape due to the fact that they spend hours and hours a day driving through communities and analyzing important data.

  • Q

    Find a real estate agent or loan officer first?

    Both are part of your Real Estate Team, and either should have a trusted source of referral partners that they can introduce you to while you’re in the process of interviewing real estate professionals to help you with your home purchase.

    If you need a mortgage, then your real estate agent should require you to have a pre-qualification letter prior to scheduling an appointment to preview properties, especially in a Seller’s market.

    The benefit of meeting with a mortgage professional ahead of time is that you can discuss various mortgage programs that may require specific language or property criteria that your agent needs to know about. Knowing what size mortgage you can afford will also help your agent research and recommend the right listings for you to preview.

    Waiting around for a loan pre-approval letter shouldn’t prevent you from researching the market though. Our website has several options for previewing properties online, and you can also have your real estate agent email you specific homes that meet your criteria.

  • Q

    Do I need to get pre-approved for a loan first?

    Yes, you will need to have a pre-qualification letter prior to submitting a purchase offer if the sale of the property relies on you obtaining mortgage financing.

    Experienced real estate agents (the ones you should be working with) generally require buyers to have that initial pre-qual discussion with a mortgage company before getting serious about driving around to look at properties with the intent on making an offer.

    However, you can start the conversation with a real estate agent about communities, properties, the market conditions… and so on prior to having that mortgage pre-qualification letter in hand.

    The mortgage company plays a major role throughout the entire homebuying process, and the responsibility for closing on time theoretically rests with their team of processors and underwriters. If the mortgage company has a strong working relationship with the participating real estate agents, then the transactions tend to go more smoothly.

    Many home buyers actually start with a mortgage company that they like and trust first, and then ask them for a referral to a few agents that they work strongly with who would be a good fit.

  • Q

    Do I need an agent, or can I deal directly with the seller's agent?

    A “Buyer’s” agent represents a buyer in the buyer’s best interest.

    A “Seller’s” agent represents the seller in the seller’s best interest.

    Some buyers feel like they would get a better deal if they work directly with the agent selling the home, but that is generally not the case for the reasons mentioned above.

    Since a sales price is negotiated between a buyer and seller, don’t you feel like the seller would have a competitive advantage if they had professional representation in their corner?

  • Q

    Who pays the buyer's agent's commission?

    It is common that a seller will pay the buyer’s agent’s commission, unless specifically stated in a contract.

    Also keep in mind that a property should sell at fair market value, which is backed up by the professional opinion of the agent representing the buyer and validated by an appraisal.

  • Q

    Do I need an agent if I'm buying new construction?

    It is highly recommended for the reasons mentioned above. The listing agent representing the builder is looking out for the builder’s best interests.

    Important – If you preview model homes without your buyer agent, then the new home builder may not pay your agent’s commission. This may put you in a situation where you have to deal directly with the builder’s representing agent alone.

  • Q

    What appliances typically come with a home?

    Built-in appliances, such as dishwasher, microwave, oven / range, disposal… are considered part of the home. Items such as refrigerator, washer and dryer are the seller’s property, but could be negotiated as part of the sales contract.

  • Q

    Where does my earnest money go?

    The Earnest Money Deposit is credited back towards the buyer’s closing costs and/or down payment.

    Any additional funds are given back to the buyer from the escrow company.

  • Q

    Do I need to sell before I can buy a new home?

    This is a topic to be discussed as part of your mortgage pre-qualification process, which is why it’s important to have the initial conversation with the lender before putting up earnest money and entering into a sales contract.

    If you can qualify for a new home loan with both mortgage liabilities, then the next question you need to answer for yourself is whether or not you can truly afford both payments in the case that property A doesn’t sell for a while.

    Some buyers come up with the idea of buying a second home to live in and then letting the current property go into default / foreclosure. This practice is actually considered fraud and could end very badly.

    However, it is an honest challenge that many buyers/sellers face, regardless of which type of market they are in.

    If it is easy to sell, then finding a property and getting an offer accepted might be difficult.

    On the flip side, in a buyer’s market, it might be easy to find a home and hard to sell.

    Work with your real estate agent and lender to strategically plan how to make this transition without breaking the law or putting yourself in a stressful situation.

  • Q

    Will I get a better deal if I buy a short sale or foreclosure?

    Maybe, provided your real estate agent knows what they’re doing and how to communicate the obstacles to you.

    Cash vs Mortgage Loan play a key role in this scenario as well.

    Ask your lender about an FHA 203k Renovation loan, which is a special program that allows a buyer to purchase an uninsurable or simply ugly property with as little as 3.5% down and roll all of the upgrades and rehab costs into a 30 year lower interest rate mortgage.

    An “uninsurable” property is one that a typical lender wouldn’t finance. For example, a foreclosure where the previous owners literally took the kitchen sink when they vacated the property. Since cash-buyers are primarily the only people who these types of properties are marketed to, the selling prices tend to be lower due to market demand.

  • Q

    Are there benefits to buying in a Home Owners Association HOA?

    Yes and No, it depends on your personal opinion based on several factors. HOA’s have several rules and regulations that all homeowners have to follow. There are also extra monthly HOA dues that you’ll need to pay in addition to your mortgage payment, property taxes and homeowner’s insurance.

    HOA’s do have their advantages with extra amenities, such as gated communities, parks, landscaping…

  • Q

    What is Title Insurance?

    By including title insurance when purchasing property, your title insurer takes on accountability for legal expenses to defend your property title, should it ever be challenged.

    Many different occurrences can come into play to warrant the need for title insurance.

    The title company responsible will then take on the legal expenses to defend the property for as long as you are in possession of an interest in the property under the title.

    If the defense is not successful, you will be reimbursed for any loss of value of the property.

  • Q

    Do I need to have a Home Inspection?

    We believe yes, because it will save you money. Some mortgage programs require a home inspection.

    The home inspection report should clearly identify any potential significant defects, and give the home buyer a realistic estimate of the costs of repairs so that they can be negotiated in an updated purchase contract.

    An inspection should also highlight any areas or features that need to be addressed in the near future which may be reaching the end of their useful life span.

  • Q

    When do I get my keys?

    When the final closing documents are signed, funds have been delivered from your mortgage company (if getting a home loan) and the deed has been recorded.

    This process can take anywhere from 10 – 72 hours generally. Weekends, end of the month, acts of God and final mortgage funding conditions can stall this process.

    Your lender and real estate agent will be all over everyone to make sure this final step is quick and painless.

Common Real Estate Terms & Vocabulary

You may hear your real estate agent or title company use the following terms throughout your homebuying experience. It is not necessary for you to know how to speak real estate in order to buy a home, but it helps to understand certain things your homebuying team are talking about when they fail to communicate effectively.


Generally used when a seller accepts the terms presented in a purchase contract offer.


A “Subject To” provision in a purchase contract or mortgage approval that requires more work or documents to be submitted prior to a final decision to be completed.


The period of time described in a purchase contract for the buyer and seller to perform certain duties such as appraisal, loan approval and inspections.

Deed of Trust:

In real estate, a trust deed or deed of trust, is a document wherein specific financial interest in the title to real property is transferred to a trustee, which holds it as security for a loan (debt) between two other parties.

One is referred to as the trustor the other referred to as the beneficiary. In its simplest terms the trustor would be the receiver of money and the beneficiary would be the lender of money. The trust deed document most likely would be recorded (constructive notice) with the County Recorder where the property is located as evidence of and security for the debt.

When the loan is fully paid, the monetary claim on the title is transferred to the borrower by reconveyance to release the debt obligation. If the borrower defaults on the loan, the trustee has the right to foreclose on and transfer title to the lender or sell the property to pay the lender from the proceeds.

Earnest Money:

The deposit money deposited in escrow by a buyer in good faith to secure a purchase transaction.


A third party that holds money or property in trust until a transaction has been complete. There are several uses for the word “Escrow” in the real estate or mortgage process. Closing Escrow describes when a purchase transaction is complete. An Escrow or Impound account involves having your annual property and hazard insurance payments handled by a third party and taken out of monthly installments in a mortgage payment.


The difference between a loan balance and a property’s fair market value.