LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - One sector that has actually thrived during COVID-19 is real estate, specifically the residential side of things.
With extra time at home during the pandemic, houses are a hot ticket item across the country, especially here in the Coulee Region.
Local realtor and President of the La Crosse Area Realtors Association Kent Gabrielsen said their current inventory is the lowest they've ever seen.
"With the pandemic it has really helped people understand the value of a home," said Gabrielsen. "They spend so much more time there, people are looking for a place of their own, a place they can fix up, a place for their pets and family."
On top of that, people are hoping to take advantage of current financial benefits said President of Firefighters Credit Union Bruce Zmolek.
"Mortgage loans are at historical lows," said Zmolek. "To give you an idea of how low they are, I've been doing this 33 years. I've never seen mortgage rates this low."
While we are currently in what's considered a "Seller's Market", buyers are not getting the short end of the stick.
"As a buyer it is still affordable because interest rates are low even if you're paying a little bit more for your house, what your monthly payment is very similar to what it was a year or two ago," said Gabrielsen. "Affordability has been holding so it's a great time to buy as well, it's just a competitive market."
Local realtors said to not get discouraged if you haven't found exactly what you're looking for right now as we historically have low inventory through the winter months. That should turn around as we head into spring.
Zmolek said this current market has peaked the interest of many first time home buyers, and loan experts offered us some advice for those that are looking.
"Start saving as much money as you possibly can. You want the biggest down payment you can possibly have when making your first home purchase," said Zmolek.
He also notes to keep credit scores up and do not show a history of late payments.
"It's very important that we can prove to someone investing in you that you are trustworthy," said Zmolek. "Save as much money, pay your bills on time. Your first home does not have to be your dream home or forever home."
Gabrielsen said a bulk of the housing competition right now falls the price range of $200,000 to $225,000. Interest rates are expected to nudge up a bit this year, but still stay down on the lower end. Current rates are around 3% for a 30 year fixed rate.