Northern Michigan Real Estate: Kim Pontius, Executive Vice President of Traverse Area Association of Realtors, shares insight on the Northern Michigan real estate market.

Let’s start with a number—what are prices doing so far in 2012?

I like looking at the median price—which means half the homes sold above this number and half the homes sold below this number. The median price in April 2011 was $118,000; this April it was $144,500. That is a significant jump, and we attribute that to a lot of activity in areas that have been lackluster for the past two years, that $150,00 to $250,000 range and the $400,000 to $500,000 range.

What type of buyer is driving that?

We don’t track where buyers come from, but anecdotally I’m hearing we are seeing a lot of out-of-state activity. I’ve heard Texas mentioned often, but also Arkansas, Missouri and of course the other big Midwestern states, Ohio, Illinois. From within Michigan, it seems people from Grand Rapids are very active in the market.

What’s your best guess as to what’s bringing them to the market?

I attribute that to the effectiveness of the Pure Michigan campaign and also the Good Morning America viewers voting this the Most Beautiful Place in America. Also we keep showing up on lists of great places to retire, so we are strong in the early retiree area, and we are a top location for Coast Guard retirees.

Any movement in the local market?

We are seeing families that have been in a holding pattern over the past couple of years now feeling the confidence to move up. Families continue to grow and need more room and they want to move from a starter home. Interest rates staying low is helping to make that happen.  

What about waterfront property?

We sold $14 million of waterfront in the first quarter of 2009, and we sold $35 million in first quarter of 2012. The median price in that same time rose from $209,000 to $306,000. So, yes, waterfront is seeing a lot of activity. I think a lot of the buyers will come from out of state as more people discover what’s here. I keep saying we ought to have a T-shirt that says, “I had no idea.”

This article was originally featured in the July 2012 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine. Order your copy online at!

Photo(s) by Jacqueline Southby