You’ll find many useful Home Buyer’s Guides and Home Seller’s Guides online, most of which are intended for “First-Time” Home Buyers and Sellers, and delve deeply into the step-by-step details throughout the buying/selling process.
This series of articles, however, was written for those of you that have already “been there, done that” and are now considering either buying or selling a second-home or vacation-home in Southwest Michigan.
In Part 1, we discussed how the motivations of vacation-home owners are much different than those of primary-home owners. Click here to read Part 1: The Motivations are Different for Second-Home Owners.
Part 2: Knowing What You Want in a Vacation Home
Most of us have come to understand that “you can’t always get what you want“. We’ve also learned that “if you try sometime, you find, you get what you need” 🙂 Those profound lyrical-words-of-wisdom aside, you certainly won’t get what you want if you don’t know what you want !
By taking the time to explore the series of questions below, you will greatly increase the chances of getting exactly what you want in your lakefront home !
Question #1: What does “waterfront” mean to you?
“The waterfront”… or “the lakefront“… has many meanings. To some, it means to be “on the lake“… to others it means to be “near the lake“, marinas, or beaches. The variations are plentiful, including waterfront, lakefront, water-view, lake-access, water access, deeded-lake-access, private-lake-access, public-lake-access, and more. Then there’s the type of lake… Lake Michigan or Inland Lakes, Skiing Lake, Boating Lake, Fishing Lake, or Swimming Lake.
Question #2: Where will your vacation home be in Southwest Michigan?
If you’re coming from the greater Chicago area, you might be tempted to stay as close to home as possible, across the state line in New Buffalo Michigan perhaps, minimizing the drive time to/from your vacation home in Southwest Michigan. But the reality is, once you’re out of the Chicago/Indiana I-94 area, it’s usually smooth sailing along I-94 and I-196 in Southwest Michigan, placing many other lakefront communities within your reach. If you’re willing to spend a few more minutes in the car and drive a little farther north, to the St. Joseph Michigan or South Haven Michigan areas for example, you can often get more value for your money!
Once you’ve chosen a lakefront community, don’t be afraid to “think outside the… uh… city” a bit! While you may be drawn to one of our wonderful resort towns, you may prefer to be within a short drive, rather than in a congested downtown area.
A good first step is to begin looking at real estate listings of lakefront and waterfront properties for sale in the lakefront communities that appeal to you. By browsing the community pages and real estate listings at your own pace, you will gain a good understanding of the communities, pricing, and availability of lakefront homes and sites in the area.
A great place to start is our Lakefront Communities Map!
You’ll find an uncluttered layout of the lakefront communities and resort destinations along the Lake Michigan coastline in Southwest Michigan. After clicking on a community link, you’ll be presented with links to useful information about each community and real estate listings in the area. (The Lakefront Communities of Southwest Michigan include Holland MI, Saugatuck MI, Douglas MI, South Haven MI, Covert MI, Le Lac Appelle… The Lake is Calling, Coloma MI, Paw Paw Lake MI, Watervliet MI, Sister Lakes, Benton Harbor MI, Harbor Shores MI, St. Joseph MI, Stevensville MI, Featured Properties SW Michigan, Berrien Springs MI, Bridgman MI, Sawyer MI, Lakeside MI, Union Pier MI, New Buffalo MI, Grand Beach MI, aka “Harbor Country MI”)
Question #3: What price range is right for you?
This question presents the proverbial Chicken or Egg scenario! We highly recommend that you ( egg 🙂 ) consider your own financial situation and decide how much you’re comfortable spending on a monthly basis for a second home. We say “comfortable” because a vacation home should be a place where anxiety is low and enjoyment is high! Then ( chicken 🙂 ), once you know your price range, it becomes easier to find the right place! If you skip this step, you will waste time looking at homes in a lower price range that don’t meet your needs/expectations, and homes in a higher price range that exceed your comfort zone.
For example: A $600,000 purchase price, with typically 20% ($120,000) down, results in a $480,000 mortgage. Amortizing the loan at 5% interest over 30 years results in a $2,500 monthly payment. But we’re not done yet… you’ll need to add $1,000 to $1,500 more for real estate taxes, for a total monthly payment of $3,500 to $4,000. Of course, you can reduce the monthly payment by placing more money down.
Feel free to use our Mortgage Calculator, run through different scenarios, and fine-tune your comfort range.
Question #4: What type of home do you want?
In reality, there are multiple questions embedded within this single question! Let’s just run down the list:
- Do you prefer a traditional-style or contemporary design?
- How many bedrooms do you need for family and guests?
- How many bathrooms?
- How large of home do you want? Consider here that home sizes are often expressed as the square footage “above grade”. A fully-finished walkout basement may readily satisfy your need for extra space and still provide the look & feel of above-grade areas. So be sure to consider the “Total Living Areas” of homes. If you need 3,500sqft, a 2,500sqft home with a finished “daylight” basement may be just right !
- Do you want an existing home? How old/new? What kind of condition? Would you prefer to build a new home? Tip: If you’re thinking about building a new lakefront home, then it’s time to explore the lakefront sites! Just click on our Lake Communities Map link, select a city, then scroll down to the “Lakefront Sites” link in the middle of the community page.
- What kind of site/setting/surroundings do you envision? Do you see your home on a narrow 50′ wide city lot in a high-density area with few trees, or would you prefer a low-density area of 200′ wide sites, mature trees, and ample space between homes?
Wrapping It Up: After you’ve answered the questions above, Then it’s time to start looking !
If you’re in a committed lakefront relationship, be sure to run through these questions together! There’s nothing worse than discovering the perfect home, only to find out that your lakefront partner has an entirely different vision. A fun approach is for each person to answer the questions independently, then compare your answers. You will quickly identify the areas of agreement… and disagreement… then negotiate for your “must have” items.
An example summary might look like this:
Question #1: I want to be “on” the water… with a lakefront view! Lake Michigan would be nice, but mostly I want a place where I can walk out my front door, lay on my own private sandy beach, fish, and swim!
Question #2: I’d prefer to be within 90 minutes of the Chicago area, somewhere between South Haven Michigan and St. Joseph Michigan, which places us within a short drive to both resort communities for shopping, restaurants, and entertainment.
Question #3: I’m comfortable within the $400,000 to $600,000 range. I know that it might be difficult to stay within this price range and still get all the things on my wish list, but hey, it’s what I want !
Question #4: I’m really drawn to the traditional, cottage-style homes. You know, with natural wood floors, bead-board walls, painted white trim, and lots of quality & character. I need 3-4 bedrooms, 2-4 bathrooms, and 2,500sqft of finished space. I prefer a newer home in good condition, if not brand new. I’m willing to consider building to get exactly what I want. I’m ready for a spacious lakefront site, with distance between homes. After all, I’m trying to escape from the crowded downtown to relax & enjoy my time away!
If our example above describes exactly what you’re looking for, then be sure to check out Le Lac Appelle… The Lake is Calling… near South Haven Michigan.
If not, then check out our Lakefront Communities Map to explore the charming lakefront communities of Southwest Michigan and the available waterfront real estate listings !
Of course, Contact Us when you’re ready to start looking and we’ll be glad to schedule some showings!