Ahmed Abubaker, Founder of AA Baker Realtors

This past April, fewer homes were sold in the 4-county metro Milwaukee area than April 2019, as reported by Nick Williams in the Milwaukee Business Journal. This may have had something to do with Covid-19, but trends show real estate sales tilting downward last year for both metro Milwaukee and the nation as a whole.

Williams reported that in April 2020, sales across the four-county metro area decreased 9.2% to 1,596 compared to the same month in 2019 when there were 1,757 homes sold. Williams got his data from the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors, which also reported that listings were down this year, dropping 33.8% to 1,732 from April 2019 when there were 2,617 homes on the market.

That being said, it depends a lot on the neighborhood. In the southside Milwaukee suburbs of Franklin and Oak Creek, the real estate market remains “very strong, it’s competitive,” said Mohammad Ismail, a young agent who has been working in home sales since July 2019, when he joined the team at AA Baker Realtors.

Mohammad Ismail

What Ismail describes as “competitive” is actually a seller’s market in a specific niche in the metro area. AA Baker’s founder Ahmed Abubaker said, “The issue we have in the market here is not lack of buyers. We have a lot of them. We have a lack of inventory.” Weekends are always a busy time for real estate agents, and last weekend, Abubaker said he wrote a total of three offers. “Some homes available for sale had 40 to 50 showings in one day,” he said. “Some sellers got 11 to 17 offers. All of the offers were above the asking price.” One offer Abubaker wrote was $15,000 over the asking price, another was $20,000 over asking. Neither was accepted.

Looked at from the seller’s perspective, there is not much wrong with the south-suburban Milwaukee real estate market, especially if you’re looking to sell a property in the $200K to $300K price range. “It’s gonna get snatched up,” Abubaker said.

“We have this problem for the last three years,” said the AA Baker owner, who currently has three agents working out of his office. Abubaker is also an architect and remodeler, a one-stop shop for clients. “Unemployment is low, more people are entering than leaving the state. The economy of the area is growing.”

Combine that with the lack of inventory in the most desirable neighborhoods, and “people are willing to go higher and give more than the asking price,” Abubaker said.

As for the coronavirus, realtors and their clients have made the necessary adjustments.

Mohammad Ismail does have some clients who “lost their jobs or were furloughed” due to the coronavirus pandemic. “It affects you personally,” he said, “but as a market as whole, I can’t say it’s going up or down. The competitiveness still hasn’t changed,” and interest rates remain at an all-time low. “Who would have thought you’d get a 30-year loan for 3.5%?” Ismail said.

Ismail attended Salam School in Milwaukee and gives out his business card wherever he goes. As a result, his roster of clients leans toward young couples who are looking for their first home and establishing their families. “These people have very good jobs” and are looking to live in the Oak Creek/Franklin area, said Ismail, referring to his clientele as “the younger generation, between the ages of 20 to 30. The youngest [client] I have right now is, like, 25 [and] is buying investment properties.” Ismail often works with, “people that I grew up with,” he said. “People my father’s age, they work with Ahmad.” Ismail says a typical listing for him would be in the $300-$360K range.

And those homes are still being put on the market, despite concerns about the new coronavirus.  Wisconsin Realtors Association is “asking us to do our due diligence with sellers and buyers,” Ismail said. “We ask whoever lists properties with us to leave cabinets open, leave lights on, leave doors open, so buyers don’t have to touch anything.”

Agents and buyers are encouraged to wear face masks and gloves when touring homes, Ismail said. “Personally, for me it’s really about your personal hygiene. I carry hand sanitizer with me for my clients. I carry an extra pair of gloves.” And potential buyers are warned to stay home if they’re not feeling well. “We won’t take them to somebody else’s home” if they’re sick, Ismail said.

The system works, Ismail says, because “everybody’s looking out for each other. Everybody has one goal. As a seller’s agent, I want to get my seller’s property sold but also keep them safe, because they’re returning to that home at night. And with the buyers, I don’t want them to be sick.”

Up until two weeks ago, Ghada Shakir was writing offers on homes in the Mequon area, working for Shorewest Realtors. She resigned then to work on a family move that will take her out of state, she told WMJ.

The median price of a home in the North Shore is $375K, Shakir said, but sellers are seeing more homes going for the asking price, rather than offers written for $10- to $15- to $20K above asking.

That supports the old adage about real estate – that it’s all about location, location, location. The strong community and family values of Milwaukee’s Oak Creek and Franklin suburbs, plus a new generation of young families out looking for homes, make for a niche market that is able to out-compete some of the higher-priced areas in strong home sales.

Ghada Shakir (center)