The number one thought that comes to mind when you imagine that dream Northern Michigan summer home or retirement property? Water, of course!

Wally Kidd, owner of Kidd & Leavy Real Estate in Petoskey, is seeing a strong market for lakefront, but the demographics of those buyers are changing. “Baby Boomers are downsizing,” he says. “They’re selling the family lake home and moving closer to town. Generation X, those 40- to 55-year-olds, are now the mainstay of lakefront buyers. They’re in the prime of their careers and the height of their earning years. It’s time to start new traditions of their own.”

Wally says lakefront properties with a small, vintage cottage will start around $100,000 on Burt and Mullet lakes in Cheboygan County, with a harrowing climb in excess of $12 million on Lake Charlevoix. “I know,” he says. “It’s shocking!”

Overall, he advises buyers to prioritize the water and location on their price of land. “If you want a sunset or flat walking to the lake or a hard-packed lake bottom for the kids to enjoy, that’s your focus,” he says. “You can always remodel a home, but you can’t change the land.”

Ian Volchoff, a broker with Trophy Class Real Estate covering Muskegon, Grand Haven and Cadillac, says this year’s lakefront buyers will have their eye on the water. “The buying public is taking notes on how water can fluctuate throughout the decades,” Ian says. “We are set for record lake levels in 2020 again. This year’s hot buttons are going to be how did the shoreline handle the increased water levels?”

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As for price ranges, Ian says small, non-all-sports lakes start around $50,000 and, in very desirable areas, crest into the millions. “Lake Michigan will have its challenges this year,” he says. “Values are going to be tested with the current erosion issue.”

But in the end, he says, lake living will always be a top pick. “It’s one of the best backyards you could ever purchase,” he says.

So far, Mark Hagan, an associate broker with Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors specializing in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties, isn’t seeing any kind of slowdown in sales of waterfront property. Quite the opposite. “For the last several years, there was an abundance of waterfront in Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties on Lake Michigan,” Mark says. “In the last 12 months, we have sold most of what we thought was a several-year supply. The second home or vacation property market is on fire.”

And the stats back him up: From January 2019 through February 2020, the Traverse Area Association of Realtors sold 26 Lake Michigan waterfront parcels in Leelanau County, totaling $23 million. Likewise, from January 2019 through February 2020, the Traverse Area Association of Realtors sold 38 Lake Michigan waterfront parcels in Grand Traverse County, totaling $35 million.