16 Mississippi Dreaming

The ’50 cent’ tour was now heading south into the Brewers Hill area and its guide was giving a short history lesson.

“On your map there, Brewers Hill actually combines riverside and riverbluff. Commerce Street runs alongside the river. Up on the hillside over there is the site of the old reservoir, now a park. It once supplied water to power the industries that used to line the riverside, the flour mill, tanneries and sawmill. Lots of warehouses, too. This was once envisioned as the starting point of a canal, dug all the way from here to the Mississippi.”

“So technically, you could navigate a boat all the way to the Gulf from here?” Shel was intrigued by this scope of engineering. chapter-17-mississippi-dream

“That was the plan. Canals were all the rage in transportation before the railways. The canal idea was dropped after a mile or so of digging but next came a railway line, the Beer Line. All that gave way later to an industrial wasteland and this whole corridor was abandoned for many years, until New Urbanism style developers imagined a gritty, rather than pastoral, riverside architecture here and the re-development began. Now, Riverwalk access reaches all the way up here from downtown and there is a new walkway under the bridge, as well.”

“And on the bluff?”

“Well, that’s a different story. There’s a designated Historic District up the hillside with many older Victorians, once the homes of the industrialists, plus conversions galore along right along with newer buildings. So it’s a completely different flavor than along the river, with blurring and blending of neighborhoods.”

“That’s a positive sign, isn’t it?”

“Well I think so. But being an urban pioneer isn’t for everyone. It’s important to see the whole picture first, all the options.”

“When we looked online for units, that’s all we saw, just individual units. I never thought at the time that I was missing out on seeing whole neighborhoods, never was aware that might even matter.Ā  And then, when we actually went out to check out one development, we weren’t really aware of the neighborhood context then either. I mean, we just drove straight to the address.”

“You are buying a unit, a development, and a neighborhood, all three. I can also tell you straight up that whatever you want to buy, a condo or a single-family, in whatever location you decide, it will make your home search easier and better if you talk, not text, not research, not e-mail, not avoid, but simply talk to an agent who works in that market segment. You’ll have more information and make a better decision.”

“But everybody looks online now.” Michelle disagreed. “You’ll never sell that idea.”

Riverside and riverbluff along the Beerline

Riverside and riverbluff along the Beerline

“What idea? ‘Do-it-yourself’ realty? ‘It’ often goes the way of the canal here, no place fast. Housing is a big decision. I mean, would you even consider DIY surgery?”

“Ouch. ‘Do-it-yourself’ surgery.” Shel winced.

“All I mean is, at some point, talk to someone who knows the field. Look, I’ll give you a real time example. No John this time, no analogy, OK?”

“Real estate, not surgical, please. I can imagine that quite well by myself, thanks all the same.”

“A couple, like you in a medical type field, started looking downtown on their own. They weren’t pre-approved and were just estimating what they could afford. They had a lease for another six months, or so. We met. I showed them a few things. They continued to look online. They were all over the map, literally, with single-family houses here and condos way over there.”

R.M. waved to the north and then to the west. “Real spaghetti on the wall approach. And they still didn’t know what they could afford, so this was pretty meaningless. I showed them these places, all the while encouraging them to get to a lender. Finally, their little gray cells went clickety-click and off they went to the bank. Surprise, surprise, they ended up with a price point different than what they had hoped. Back to the drawing board.”

“So they couldn’t have bought anything you’d already shown them anyway?” The Shells got the idea.

“Frustrating for everyone, I agree. Anyway, long story short, once they had a price, the selection narrowed considerably. It usually does. But here’s the thing. I was then able to focus on units they could afford and in several different styles and locations. End of story? They wrote on a far larger unit than they thought they could ever have found at the price, plus because of the way I was able to help structure their offer, they were able to move in months before their lease was up. All because they started to talk, and listen.”

“You’ve been telling us all day that the real estate mantra is location, location, location. Now it’s also price, price, price?”

“Welcome to Milwaukee!” R.M. laughed as he pulled into a parking area outside a construction trailer. Open house signs, flags, and balloons partially obscured the name on the sign, ‘The Bend in the River.’ “Wanted you to see this, and give you a better idea about how this process works. Here we have a new construction development, already ‘in the ground,’ as we say, or well underway, and there’s a model unit of sorts all tricked out in this trailer, here. You won’t know this because it’s your first time by it but I can tell you that this development uses cutting edge marketing. I’ll have you know that they change the color of the flags and balloons every week!”

“That often?” Michelle sniggered in the back seat.

“If you wander in and mention my name, the agent here might accept that you were working with me. If I called to register you as my buyers, they would likely respect that, especially because they remembered that I’d already been in to see their project. I always do that, with all the new developments. Sometimes though, the agent might insist that I bring you in myself or they would see you as fair game.”

“Fair game? We’re fair game?” The sniggering stopped.

“You have to be careful. Always ask if the agent is employed by the developer or is working the project for a real estate company.”

“What’s the difference?”

“The agent employed by the developer is trying to sell you a unit in that project, period. And you have no idea how much pressure employees are sometimes under to sell, or how much they are mini-managed. On the other hand, an agent who is simply representing the project would also like to sell you a unit there but is much more likely to also show you other units or developments in your price range or in other locations.”

“What else do we have to be careful of?”

“Speaking of flags, it should be a real red flag if an agent refuses to show you a unit you want to see, unless there is documentation of a defect at that property.”

“Bottom line is don’t get sold down the river?”

“It’s to the advantage of the buyer to have a choice. In my experience, no-one makes a quarter-million dollar investment just because an agent twists his arm.”