Where do I begin?

Lake Michigan BeachesYou’re in exactly the right place. Unlike primary home buying, over 85% of second home buyers begin their search on the internet, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. This site provides valuable resources for those beginning Southwest Michigan lake property searches. There are some basic questions that you will want to consider before you actually look at homes:

  • Analyze your budget and determine your optimal price range.
  • Evaluate whether you are willing to look at only new homes or will also include existing homes in your search.
  • Discuss weather your family needs or prefers a community with built in amenities vs. a stand-alone home.
  • Will you need a garage or other storage area?
  • Does your community need to be pet friendly? If you have dogs or cats, ask about any Homeowners Association restrictions regarding pets.
  • Do you want to be on water? Do you prefer a lake or a river?
  • Are you looking for a lake which allows water skiing, tubing and other water sports, also known as an “all sports lake” (sometimes written as one word, “allsport”, or even hyphenated, “all-sport”)? Is your family more comfortable with a “no motor” lake, sometimes referred to as a “no wake” lake?
  • If you’re looking for something on or near water, do you plan on getting a pontoon boat, ski boat, sailboat, fishing boat, Jet Ski or a waverunner? If so, will you need a dock or slip for the season? Many second homes come with a dock.  However, if it doesn't, can a dock be added?  If there are no permanent piers, docks or slips available with your home, are there public or private boat launches to put your boat in and take it out? Is there a place to park or store your boat trailer?
  • Do you enjoy doing some yard work or would you prefer a “maintenance-free community”? These days, the most common answer by a landslide. . . “Not more yard work!” Fortunately, these communities are easy to find, as the current trend in many second home communities is maintenance-free living. Many communites now have homeowner associations which are structured to either discourage lawns or provide care included in a small monthly assessment. There may be a lawn restriction designed to enhance the natural wooded look of the environment. These associations often take care of common area upkeep, such as snowplowing, pool cleaning, landscaping, etc.
  • Your second home should evoke feelings of vacation, adventure and relaxation.  It should ideally have a much more natural, rural feel and look than that of your primary home community. When you gaze out the windows of your second home you should see woods, water, or something unique to immediately remind you that you have "gotten away".  Buying in a Southwest Michigan maintenance-free community means your family can spend your weekends playing, not working. Another new trend: Many second home communities now have Concierge Services either provided by the community or available in vacation home areas.
  • Identify your target geographic area. Once you have determined how far you are willing to drive, put a circle on a map to define the area of your search. How far is the closest town, grocery store, park, restaurant?  These may become important questions as you zero in on your location.
  • The next step is vital to making good choices: Contact several developments to arrange tours of their communities and homes. Many second home communities have models you can walk through.  Take note of the quality of construction, and the flexibility of the builder to make minor adjustments on plans to suit your needs.  Make sure to bring other family members and/or friends to ask for and actually listen to their input. There’s a good chance you may be inviting them for visits, especially if they’re bringing the food and drinks!
  • House hunting can be overwhelming and details begin to blurr.  Keep notes of your top choices and schedule a return visit to take a closer look.
  • Spend time driving and exploring the immediate areas around the developments. Take your time and ask a lot of questions. Are there restaurants and activities suitable for your whole family?

“Should I use a realtor?”

While the vast majority of second homebuyers begin and continue their search on the internet, there are still those buyers who reach out to realtors. Just remember that many realtors focus on the much larger primary home market to make their living. This could mean that while they know a great deal about primary home markets, many may not have spent time focusing on the unique attributes of SW Michigan second home communities. You will want to do a little bit of homework and online research, to learn how to zero in on your dream home. Naturally, most second home developers can price a bit more aggressively when you come to them directly, but they will still welcome you when accompanied by a realtor.