With the Fourth of July upon us, it’s an impossible time to start scouting a vacation rental in one of Southwest Michigan’s darling dune towns. The best spots and bargains have been gone since winter. But you're not out of luck—in fact, now is not a bad time to just buy a house you can use any time you want.
Three nicely priced homes are on the market now. Here's a quick overview of their towns—south to north, as you drive far away from the sweltering city, you'll hit New Buffalo, Saint Joseph, and then Spring Lake.
New Buffalo: $239,000
New Buffalo takes the prize for proximity to Chicago and sprinkles in resort-like characteristics. Its shoreline housing prices are easily double those of the other locales. There are clusters of new condos and rentals a couple blocks from the marina. Then, cottages with private beaches extend out from the public park and beach. On the main drag, there are a number of restaurants and bars on the main drag.
One good way to find a find a bargain here is to head a half-mile inland. There, you might get places like this three-bedroom ranch-style cottage with a piece of wooded ravine and access to nearby beach. It’s 1,268 square feet, with a good kitchen, comfortable living room, wood-burning fireplace, Florida room, garden, and a wooded lot. Though technically on the wrong side of the tracks, deeded beach rights still make it feel exclusive. The asking price? $239,000.
Saint Joseph: $94,900
Thirty miles north in the tiny city of Saint Joseph, dubbed the “Riviera of the Midwest,” is a 1,100 square foot two-bedroom bungalow newly listed for just $94,900.
Saint Joseph is probably the most alluring of these three communities, with intact 19th Century buildings downtown, brick streets, and the most options in shopping and dining. The home is also on a ravine, but this time, it includes more than an acre of yard. There's a new kitchen, refinished hardwood floors, central air, and an enclosed porch and is minutes from sensational Silver Beach Park.
So what's the catch? Well, the home is on the busy (but pretty) Lakeshore Drive, the property backs up onto a railroad line, and it is a couple of miles from the swingin' downtown. But a house at this price, in this condition, is still a bargain.
Update: A sale just closed on this home–proof that interested buyers need to act fast!
Spring Lake: $159,900
Finally, we have a 1,474 square foot three-bedroom home in the Strawberry Point section of the town of Spring Lake. This area was built out with vacation homes in the 1950s and 60s and is now more integrated with the full time community. It sits at the midpoint of the seven-mile-long Spring Lake, connected to the big lake via Grand River. This home has more of a cavernous vibe than the others and it totes a white picket fence (not uncommon to these blocks).
Greenridge Realty listing agent Chris Peel described the real estate pattern heer and in most other coastal towns in Southwest Michigan: you might find a hunk of junk on the lakeshore for $150,000, but that same price can score a real charmer with land in the heart of town.
The bargain doesn’t end there—because of our featured home’s below-average size, lack of garage, and a full block of distance from open water, the $159,000 pricing is low even for this neighborhood. That said, within a mile radius, only two home sales have cleared $180,000 in the last eight months.
Pull the trigger on one of these fine prospects or tune your midyear search to similar pricing and specs. Remember, also, that Michigan can also be pretty great in winter. Just don't go swimming.