Contrast in vacation home market along lakes Michigan, Huron

ALPENA (AP) - The market for waterfront vacation homes along lower Michigan's Great Lakes is a tale of two shorelines.

In the west, business is booming and prices are climbing for properties near Lake Michigan. In the east, bargains abound for buyers as properties along Lake Huron remain relatively affordable.

Happy days are back for sellers in the Saugatuck-Douglas area of southwestern Michigan, according to Dick Waskin of RE/MAX Saugatuck-Douglas, with prices nearing their levels before the last decade's real estate crash and the Great Recession.

"We're almost back to that late 2006-early 2007 level, before the cliff," Waskin told the Detroit Free Press.

Along Lake Huron, brokers say prices are rising only modestly from the crash and there's a buyer shortage.

"In some ways it's a steal," said Margie Haaxma of Banner Realty in Alpena. "The waterfront is just about free for some of these."

Michigan's west coast has long been more expensive than the east, and the difference has grown lately.

West coast properties have drawn out-of-state buyers, particularly from the nearby Chicago area. Lake Michigan's dunes and sandy beaches have given the area from the Indiana border north to Charlevoix and beyond a boost.

"I think it's people having more confidence in their financial situation, and they're more ready to get back in the second-home market," said Pat O'Brien of Boyne City-based Pat O'Brien & Associates.

Prices also have picked up for northern properties inland from Lake Michigan, dealers say.

One example is a two-bedroom cabin on Otsego Lake, south of Gaylord, listed at $259,000, according to Mike Perdue of the Smith Realty Group.

"Two years ago people would have said that's over the market by about $100,000," Perdue said. "Now here in our office we've had three different interested buyers, plus others, and there could soon be a deal on it."

He said the market is similar to that in 2005, two years before the price peak.

Along and inland from Lake Huron, it's still a buyer's game, real estate agents say.

"There's a lot of properties on the market and we have a lot of motivated sellers," said Sharon Wade of Lady of the Lakes North in Gladwin.

Published: Mon, Jun 08, 2015