Whether it’s on the big water, on a quiet lake, away from it all or in the heart of downtown, you can call Northern Michigan home (or your home away from home)! Local real estate experts give us candid advice on premier Up North properties. 

Yeah, the secret’s out.

America is having its aha moment about our area, says Wally Kidd, Associate Broker and Partner at Kidd & Leavy Real Estate in Petoskey. He credits Pure Michigan ads running on both coasts and the Good Morning America vote for the “Most Beautiful Place in America” as the sparks. Oh, and our beautiful fresh water.

Says Kidd: “Word of mouth has spread to places like Texas, New York and California. And people want to see firsthand what they’ve heard so much about. They’ll come up with extended family and friends and rent a place for a couple days … and a vast majority of them will return again. Word is spreading about Michigan!”

But, Kidd adds, Northern Michigan is still the land of real estate opportunities. Here, Kidd and other top-producing real estate professionals reveal the diverse hidden gems this area has to offer.


Wherever I vacation, I always check on the cost of real estate. As far as paradises compare, I think ours is a real value. You can find pretty special waterfront deals here, and they are a bit more affordable. I’m a big fan of all the waterfront properties in Grand Traverse County, but as for undiscovered gems, in particular Arbutus Lake. Arbutus Lake is actually a string of five winding lakes—residents identify them by number. I was just out there looking at a property for a client and was struck by how tranquil and beautiful it is. This particular property used to be a boys’ camp—and being there is like going back in time. Also, many know we had a record year for real estate in 2016. Business thrived. Based on our numbers as of June 2019, this year is on pace to do that again. You hear in the news that the real estate market is down, but that is not the case for us.

Mark Hagan of Coldwell Banker Schmidt is the 2018 #1 selling Realtor in the Traverse Area Association of Realtors. 

Downtown Manistee // Photo by Taylor Brown


We definitely have WATER! Manistee County actually has three ports: Manistee Lake, Portage Lake and Arcadia Lake. Bring your large boats and channel out from your home or condo to Lake Michigan. And our prices are some of the best around. For some reason, we are still a hidden gem. To be able to walk out your door to the sandy beachfront for under $600,000 seems crazy—but we have it! And views galore of freighters coming in off Lake Michigan into the Big Manistee River—a sight everyone needs to witness at least once. Even after living here for 25 years, I still stumble on some incredibly special locations—back along the Manistee River, trails there are overlooks beyond belief. And do you really know how special it is to have the North Country Trail right out our back door? Again, if you haven’t experienced it yet, you definitely want to add that to this summer’s to-do list.

Suzanne Riley, Owner/Broker of CENTURY 21 Boardwalk, Manistee/Onekama


At the tip of the mitt, Douglas Lake is a very affordable and wonderful lake. It’s still a little remote—yet you are not far from Harbor Springs, Cheboygan and Indian River—and because the University of Michigan owns a significant amount for their research and teaching facility, much of the southern shoreline remains undeveloped and in its original condition.

Wally Kidd, Associate Broker and Partner at Kidd & Leavy Real Estate, Petoskey


Let the Betsie River be your year-round “basecamp” to enjoy Northern Michigan. You will fall in love with the privacy, the endless wildlife and the quiet, peaceful surroundings. Look for non-bluff Betsie River frontage and you can literally kayak or canoe right outside your door. The wildlife enjoys calling this property home also—there are endless salmon swimming in the river, beautiful bald eagles soaring above, deer and turkey roaming the land and most of all, peaceful quiet. The Natural Rivers Act protects the natural beauty of the Betsie River and creates value for those who truly appreciate and enjoy nature, wildlife and outdoor recreation.

Jon Zickert, Lead Realtor, The Jon Zickert Group at Real Estate One, Beulah


Leland, Michigan, is a dream coastal town, known for its charming fishing village vibe. It wows visitors, summer residents and full-time locals with its unmatched beaches. But many might not know about its excellent education opportunities. Leland Public School houses grades K-12 in one building and prides itself on nurturing children as they evolve in school and the community. LPS is an International Baccalaureate World School for kindergarten through 10th grade and is well known for its outstanding academics and extracurricular activities. Leland also provides life-long learning with its library, the Leelanau Historical Society Museum and the Leelanau Community Cultural Center (the Old Art Building)—all of which are neighbored on the picturesque Leland River.

Kimberly Bork, Realtor/Partner, Venture Properties, Leland

Photo(s) by David Weidner