In a competitive market, people are weighing the options of buying versus renting a home

Realtors say there are half the homes available in the Wausau-area than this time in 2020.
Factors in the decision include personal finances, your level of patience and how long you want to stay in the area
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 5:35 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The housing market continues to trend in a competitive direction, with fewer options available and more bidding wars taking place for what’s out there.

“In 2020, there were about 440 homes in the market at this time,” said Austin Solomon, Team Leader with the Solomon Group, Coldman Banker Action in Wausau. “Last year, there was about 305. This year, there are 220 homes.”

It’s not just for homes ready to be bought. It’s also for rentals.

“To find a rental, a single-family rental or to find a single-family home is going to be challenging either way,” said Holly Hettinga, Admin with the Solomon Group.

The same is also true for those looking to live in an apartment right now. S.C. Swiderski, LLC opened three new buildings of units in Merrill this year. According to the Director of Business Development Jacqui McElroy, all of those buildings are now full.

“We’re seeing a lot of people that are taking this opportunity to sell their house as the prices are pretty high,” said McElroy. “It’s easy to sell their home and they don’t want to jump on something right away or they can’t find something, so rental is an option for them.”

With both renting and buying a difficult and expensive process right now, prospective buyers are wondering which option best suits them. It comes down to a variety of factors when determining what makes the most sense. The first factor is how long the party will be staying in a potential house.

If you’re going to be in a home for a while, a few years, five years, ten years, the biggest benefit is the potential for appreciation,” said Solomon.

According to Solomon, a house purchased within the last two to three years at roughly $100,000-$110,000 has now appreciated to a value of $150,000-$160,000. However, if the buyer isn’t looking to stay in the area for as long, the philosophy might change.

“If you’re looking short-term, you’re only going to be around for a year or two, and don’t want to worry about maintenance and upkeep, renting probably is the better option,” said Cody Hoelsch, a realtor with the Solomon Group.

Another thing to keep in mind is the interest rates. As the rates continue to rise, many people are looking to get in now before they climb even more.

“For buyers, now is a better time to buy to lock in a good interest rate so there’s a lot of pressures there that are influencing people one way or another,” said Solomon.

For those looking to rent right now, convenience can be a big factor, particularly for empty nesters who are looking for something different.

“They’re moving in and finding the maintenance-free lifestyle is a good choice for them, so we are having a lot of people who are moving in as a temporary solution and are staying long-term,” said McElroy.

With availability low, municipalities are looking to find answers for more affordable housing for people. In Stevens Point, some people are having trouble affording the rentals that are available to them and people looking to sell their homes know there’s not much to move into.

“People who are in homes that want to sell their homes, they know that they’re not going to be able to find anything and if they build they’re going to have to wait a year or more to get that home completed so they’re opting to stay in their homes,” said Meleesa Johnson, President of the Stevens Point Housing Taskforce.

Johnson thinks that looking at the city’s zoning laws can help create more options for housing in the future.

While there are a lot of things to weigh when considering buying or renting, experts recommend patience and a plan before making a decision.

“You never want to jump right into buying,” said Matt Mullen, a realtor with the Solomon Group. “My theory is I would always want my clients to think a little bit more about it than to just jump on to something.”

If you think, ‘Hey, I need to be in a new house in 30 days,’ that’s probably not realistic right now, whether for renting or buying,” said Hettinga. “Give yourself a little bit more time and the process will be a lot easier for you.”

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