Realtor Wally Kidd Shares Housing Market Trends in Northern Michigan

Traverse Magazine readers voted Wally Kidd of Kidd & Leavy Real Estate our region’s Red Hot Best Realtor. Here he shares why Northern Michigan is the land of opportunities.

So … how’s the market?

Wally Kidd

The real estate market is solid. We live in a great part of the state to be in the real estate business. Usually when you read these interviews people are telling you about some specific segment. But the best thing about Northern Michigan is that we have something for everyone—so as a Realtor my niche covers a lot of areas but especially the waterfront properties. You want to be on a fly fishing river? You want to be on a farm? You want to be in a big town—I’ll show you Traverse City. You want to be in a small town—I’ll show you Petoskey. You want to own a vineyard? You want to grow hops? You want to raise cattle? Want to go into business? Want to buy a small hotel? A bar? Waterfront, of course.

All of these special properties are backed by our state’s fantastic Pure Michigan campaign. I have a daughter on the West Coast and family on the East Coast, and when I visit them I see those Pure Michigan ads on both coasts. They are really showing the country that Michigan is not just about the automotive industry.

Is the lure of working remotely playing a part in the migration to Northern Michigan?

Yes, technology is so advanced it allows people to work from anywhere. Would you rather work from the Grand Rapids area or Walloon Lake? The Flint area or Crooked Lake?

Talk demographics to me.

We really have a cross section for every age and pocketbook. If you are a millennial, I am going to show you downtown Petoskey or Traverse City. Then if I sense you are comfortable enough with the idea I might nudge you to a smaller town.

Boomers want to be close to important services like hospitals—and our hospitals in both Traverse City and Petoskey are significant, highly rated, well-respected hospitals.

I see Gen X’ers as a new force. They are starting to buy second homes—since our lakes offer different price points they have more options. Crooked and Pickerel Lakes are affordable to Gen X’ers, for instance.

Yet, I’ve heard that inventories are low?

Yes, they are low in both the primary and secondary markets. [That’s why you really have to go to work for clients to find the best property for them.] I just helped a doctor and his wife who is an attorney—they are expecting their first baby. I worked with them for six months. At the beginning, they were thinking about buying on Walloon Lake. Finally, they said, You know what? We are going to buy in town. We want to get to know people in the community. They looked at four homes. But there was no question. They picked the one that was classic, finished, updated and ready to go. No upgrades or renovations were necessary. That is really important to busy Gen X’ers. They don’t mind decorating but beyond that, they want to move into a home that is done.

If inventory is low, does that make it a seller’s market?

Well, we have to be careful with that phrase. When the economy is strong, inventories are low and people have a tendency to overprice their real estate. Buyers are not going to overpay. Buyers have access to a tremendous amount of information online. They know the comps. They know what the house next door sold for. And so they are looking for us to validate the pricing.

We all have a cautious sense that the economy could change tomorrow. So people are not going to make foolish, emotional decisions. We saw that 10 to 15 years ago, but this is a new world. People are looking for value. They want to know that if they have to sell in a couple years they won’t get hurt.

Online real estate sites are in our faces practically every time we look at a screen. Why do we still need a living, breathing Realtor to help us with our real estate transactions?

There is often significant emotion in the buying and selling of real estate from both the buyer and the seller. We can provide counsel to both the buyer and the seller that will take the emotion out of the process. You’d be amazed at how many times after we’ve explained the facts from a business perspective that we are able to get deals done successfully and without emotion.

Taking the emotion out coupled with our high level of expertise and education is very effective. If you are going to have a significant surgery, you are going to want a doctor who has done that surgery successfully a number of times. I think it is the same thing with anything in life, whether you are hiring an attorney or a professional in real estate. You want somebody who has been through it, done it a number of times and can deliver successful results over and over.

Certainly we are bombarded with many, many properties online. But are there quietly listed properties that online users never see?

It’s not uncommon to have very special properties go on sale that aren’t marketed. These people don’t want a sign in the yard. They don’t want it on MLS. They want to do it quietly. That’s when they really look to someone who has the necessary connection to sell this kind of listing.

I am online savvy, I live in Ann Arbor and I’m looking to start a microbrew Up North.

We know exactly where to take you.

Elizabeth Edwards is managing editor of Traverse Magazine and Northern Home & Cottage. [email protected]


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Northern Michigan Real Estate Trends