Choosing a Location for your Dream Home

Michigan vacation lake dock“LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. . . ”

The mantra of the astute real estate investor is by far more important than any other one factor when it comes to looking for the perfect spot for your Southwest Michigan vacation home. Many will tell you it is even more critical than the location of your primary residence. Why? The answer is simple: If it isn't really close, you’ll hardly ever use it. You can’t enjoy something you rarely get to. The more you escape to your paradise, the more it becomes a significant part of your life.  Studies have shown that regular use of vacation homes over three hours away drops off dramatically from those second homes which are closer to the owner’s primary residence.

The ideal plan is to choose a desirable geographic area as close to your primary home as possible, while still feeling like you’re getting away. If you dread making the drive there and back, you probably won’t feel like going for a long weekend, let alone a regular weekend or a simple overnight.  On the other hand, those second homeowners whose drive is within two hours find themselves able to take full advantage of their vacation home, even on short notice. An added benefit to manageable driving distance is that various people can come and go based on their personal schedule needs.  Maybe one parent needs to drive home for an appointment or can't make it to the lakehome till a day later. Maybe your kids can only come by for one night.  Close distance makes your lakehouse "user friendly".  Keep in mind that many Southwest Michigan home communities are easily accessed by the Amtrak Railway.  

Subtle changes in terminology can mean a big difference

Don't shy away from the term "Condominium".  Some second home developments are called "site condominiums”, but they are actually single family home communities with shared common areas and amenities. This may suit your needs exactly, because of these amenities. A monthly “Condominium Association” or “Homeowner Association” fee will take care of a variety of things, such as common area landscaping, lawn care, snow removal, pool cleaning, beach and pier maintenance, and more. Sounding a little more like vacation?

There are important differences between the terms lake house, lakefront, lake view, and lake access. You should become familiar with the different terms used.

  • The term “lake house” typically refers to the fact that you have a home in a community which is located on a particular lake.  Your home may be located directly overlooking the lake.  Your home may be in the development but a short walk or golf cart ride from the actual water.
  • The term “lakefront” specifically refers to a home, whose lot actually borders the water. It is sometimes also referred to as “waterfront”.
  • The term “lake view” suggests that you have a view of the water from your home, but it may not be the closest home to the lake.
  • “Lake access” means you are in a community which allows you to use the lake. There may be a community picnic area, firepit, beach, pier or common waterfront area.  You may be able to purchase or rent a pier on the waterfront. 
  • Most of these home types will have actual “deeded access” to the body of water, a key component to securing the real estate valuation premium not given to homes without a water feature. In many cases this premium can be 30% above a similarly built home of the same age and size which does not have deeded water access.
  • Even within this group of deeded access types, these subtle differences can translate to differences in pricing or lot premiums. This will become evident to you as you begin your hunt for your perfect home away from home.

“But Mom, there’s nothing to do!”

You have heard it a million times.  You will hear it considerably less, if at all, at your vacation home.  Still, it is important to consider your family’s interests before making your decision. Be sure to buy your second home in an area that boasts attractions and activities of interest to you and your family. You will quickly find much of what you long for is literally in your own backyard.  But, for the adults, you should also look at access to golf courses, antiquing, winery tours, casinos, hiking trails, great restaurants and shopping.  If you have kids, find out where they can play on great beaches, kayak, canoe, bike and swim.  All ages can enjoy water sports like tubing, skiing, water trampolines, fishing, snowmobiling, snow boarding and skiing. There is no simply no better way to end your day than gathering around the crackling fire in your own wooded backyard and hashing through the day's highlights.  Just, don't forget the s'mores!