Recession aftermath brings bargains

THOMPSONVILLE (AP) — The big blow that the Great Recession dealt to Michigan’s real estate market has created buying opportunities for people who once might have been priced out of what had been a flourishing, high-demand stretch of the northern Lower Peninsula.

That has made it possible for people like intensive care nurse Todd Kistler, 40, to buy a 1,900-square-foot house on 24 acres with horse barns in Thompsonville for $219,000. It once was listed at $450,000.

The 40-year-old works at Sinai Grace Hospital in Detroit. The divorced father of two has an apartment in southeastern Michigan for when he works.

The northern house fits his wish list: It’s near to Crystal Mountain, the Boardman River and where his children attend school.

“They tried to sell it for two years. It sat, which surprised me,” Kistler told the Detroit Free Press. “My good fortune took the misfortune of somebody else, which is unfortunate. But ultimately, these are the cards that are out there, and I played them and it worked out well for me.”

According to the Michigan Association of Realtors, the average home sale price in Antrim, Charlevoix and Kalkaska counties peaked at $269,347 in 2003 but fell to $144,053 in 2009.

It bounced back to $179,944 last year, the group said.

In nearby Traverse City, home sale prices peaked in 2005 at $216,663, falling to $174,131 in 2009, then rising to $185,697 in 2010, the group said.

The market is getting help from a new crop of buyers from western states, real estate agents said.

They said the in-state demand remains weak.

“You can see that, because of the economy in Michigan, people are not buying second homes. We used to get people from middle management in the auto industry buying condos, and that has really stopped in the past two years,” said Sharon Witucki of Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors in Charlevoix.

Mike and Tricia Coffey of Chicago, both 38, said they decided to buy in northern Michigan after years of visiting her family on the Old Mission Peninsula, which extends north out of Traverse City into Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay.

Last summer, they paid $290,000 for a five-bedroom home that once sold for $450,000.

It features views of the bay and has shared lakefront access.

“This was kind of a thing, unfortunately for the owner that the price kept dropping,” said Mike Coffey, a managing director for the Nasdaq stock exchange in Chicago. “And honestly, when it did, we jumped on it because we didn’t think it would last that long.”