Are you dreaming of owning a Northern Michigan vacation home or cottage? We checked in with Traverse City real estate veteran realtor Bob Brick for a look at the Northern Michigan second-home market. If you’re in the market for a Northern Michigan vacation property, this is a must-read.

You’ve seen plenty of changes in the market since you became a Realtor here almost 40 years ago. Give us a snapshot of changes you see in the current vacation property market in the Traverse City area, if you will.

There has been a huge pickup of interest in all real estate in the Grand Traverse area, including vacation properties. We have a wide variety and great supply of vacation properties in this region. Buyers have a lot more confidence now. Interest rates are great. Financing for a cottage is in the 3.5 to 4.5-percentage range, but plan on having 20 percent down. Consequently, inquiries, especially Internet inquiries, are up and many of them are from outside the Midwest—Texas, Georgia, California and New York.

There are apps that make virtual property searches simpler. Tells us about Remax’s.

It’s called the Remax Mobile App and it is one of the best property search apps there is. People can search listed properties on every lake in Michigan. It’s really a phenomenal way to search for a property long distance.

Okay, so let’s say I’ve done my research and believe I’ve found the right property at the right price … is it go time?

My advice is don’t wait. With the market picking up, you may miss a great opportunity.

What is the biggest hurdle that can catch new vacation property owners by surprise?

Be aware of the non-Homestead Tax. If the new property is not their homestead, taxes can become a burden—as much as $7,000 to $8,000 a year. That’s a lot when you are only using your cottage 10 weeks a year. Maintenance is another one. It really pays to have a quality caretaker keeping an eye on your cottage—to check on it to make sure everything is copasetic.

You mentioned the importance to your clients of a search for criteria. What are some of the things they are looking for?

They are looking for suitability—something that fits their family. What’s the best size for what they need? The great thing is there are plenty of choices, especially in terms of waterfront properties. All of our lakes up here are pretty high quality and people can find what they are looking for. The main issue comes down to matching up the client’s need with recreational advantages. Some lakes you can’t waterski on, but some people are happy with that. Are you a big lake boater versus will you just be swimming and doing a little fishing—in the latter case a smaller lake might be fine. We are lucky to have as many lakes Up North as we do to create the supply that matches our demand. The great thing is you can put your criteria right into our Remax Mobile App and it will do the searching for you.

Beyond waterfront, what other kinds of vacation properties are people interested in?

They’ll buy an in-town home, say in Traverse City, and then take advantage of all of our recreational and entertainment amenities. They want to be able to walk to our quality restaurants—dining has become almost a sport in Traverse City—our shopping and our festivals. There are other people who prefer a cabin or cottage in the woods near, but not on, a lake. The property is generally more affordable and also more private.

Any advice for people who purchase their dream home but plan to rent it a portion of the summer to help finance it?

Use the Internet to qualify the quality of your renter prospects. And ask for a substantial damage deposit. Renters tend to treat properties with more respect when they put a big deposit down.

That’s some terrific nuts and bolts information. Now back to dreamland. Care to offer up a specific listing that has you fired up right now?

A property we have listed on Stoneybeach Pointe [MLS # 1782566] on Old Mission Peninsula. It is perched right on the point with 300 feet of lake frontage and has breathtaking 200-degree views of East Grand Traverse Bay [on Lake Michigan] with magnificent panoramas in every room. It totally captures the essence of waterfront living up here. Check it out on the Remax Mobile App.

Robert Brick, ReMax Bayshore Properties, 231.941.5600, ext. 203

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