Northern Michigan towns like Petoskey are popular with vacation home buyers.

Northern Michigan towns like Petoskey are popular with vacation home buyers.

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What Realtors are saying about Michigan vacation properties

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Metro | Published March 8, 2023


METRO DETROIT — Anyone with a family member who owned property in northern Michigan can recall the memory of weekend trips Up North to the cottage or the lake house.

The simple sight of a long-lasting general store or a go-to ice cream spot can evoke a longing to possibly own their own place Up North one day, but buyers would be hard-pressed to find a healthy amount of property inventory throughout Northern Michigan.

From Traverse City to Caseville, properties have been bought up at the first sight of a listing, and Royal Oak-Max Broock Realtor Matthew Bazner attributed the active market to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of people who couldn’t go anywhere had to cancel trips, so they just purchased a cottage in Michigan, and that really spurted the prices up,” Bazner said.

So, what cities are the hot commodities of Northern Michigan right now? It’s really all based on the preference of the buyer.

On the western side, Traverse City, Grand Haven, Harbor Springs and Petoskey have been popular on the market due to their wintertime activities.

“In Traverse City, Harbor Springs and Petoskey area, you also have those amenities in the winter and not just in the summer, because you have ski resorts to take advantage of as well,” Royal Oak-Max Broock Realtor Renee Pfeil said.

Traverse City, while one of the more expensive locations, has been recognized as a premium location for buyers.

Showcasing a city life, wineries and a lake presence as well, Traverse City has been hot on the market.

Pfeil, who grew up in the Cheboygan area, said Traverse City’s versatility has been its biggest attribute.

“Traverse City has become a really popular area just because of all the amenities,” Pfeil said. “You still kind of have access to get to a Target, all the city living places, the wineries, but you still have the lakes to take advantage of, the beautiful beaches, the dunes and all that.”

Towards the middle part of Northern Michigan, the lakefront properties will always hold extensive value on the market.

With Michigan universally recognized as one of the top states for boating, it’s no secret why areas like Burt Lake, Charlevoix and Mullet Lake have continued to be vacation spots.

“The other area is that whole chain of lakes from Cheboygan, Lake Huron, going into the Cheboygan River, Mullet Lake, Burt Lake and Crooked Lake,” Pfeil said. “That whole boating scene is pretty popular in the summer and a nice area where inventory is still really low because it’s hard to find stuff on the water there.”

Typical prices in the channel lakes between Burt and Mullet lakes have ranged from $300,000 to $500,000, with the higher-priced properties typically offering an updated three-bedroom lakefront property.

Ruthann Cantile, a Cheboygan native, recently purchased a lakefront house on Lake Huron, between Mackinaw City and Cheboygan, which she plans to turn into an Airbnb.

Cantile said she’s excited to show visitors what the area has to offer.

“It’s kind of nice to share Cheboygan’s lakes, rivers and trails in not only summertime but wintertime activities, like snowmobiling and ice fishing,” Cantile said.

Areas in the middle of Michigan such as Houghton Lake, Higgins Lake and Roscommon continue to be popular, specifically for buyers with proximity to metro Detroit in mind.

Bazner said he’s come across two types of buyers looking for vacation properties in Michigan.

“You find that you have two different types of people,” Bazner said. “The first is how far people want to be from metro Detroit, and the other is people who find a place wherever they want.”

Areas such as Caseville, Lexington, Port Huron and Tawas Lake have provided the lakefront properties while also saving metro Detroit-based buyers time on driving.

Lexington, Caseville and Port Huron still offer a walk-around-town feel while providing the summertime feel that buyers are looking for.

“I’ve had clients who were really more interested in Tawas Lake, Higgins Lake, Caseville and Port Huron area just because the drive time is better,” Pfeil said.

Michiganders aren’t the only ones in the market for second homes in Michigan. Wisconsin, Ohio and Illinois natives continue to populate the market.

With time not necessarily being a consideration for out-of-state buyers, Pfeil said there are certain areas that seem to be primarily occupied by out-of-state residents.

“Up in Northern Michigan, Harbor Springs, Mullet Lake, Petoskey, Charlevoix — all that is a wide variety,” Pfeil said. “There’s a lot of people who don’t live in Michigan that have a second home in Michigan. I know a lot of people in Chicago will travel on the west side along there in Lake Michigan.”

For Michiganders, Bazner said the buying habits are a little different.

“Southeast Michigan people tend to go anywhere; it’s ‘show me a lake,’” Bazner said.