Michigan Vacation Condo Packs Surprises

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Think Michigan’s sunset coast and the images that spring to mind are dunes, fishing and boats. The small towns that necklace the state’s western shore are havens for Victorian cottages and beachy bungalows… with woodsy cabins on their outskirts.

It would seem that condominiums wouldn’t find a home in this mileau, but a development in sleepy Manistee proves that assumption wrong.

From the street, the Roger and Sharon Huckendubler’s condo might be mistaken for a ranch house. Its white clapboards accented with marine-blue trim, the condo has an unassuming side entry, just past the three-car garage and by a narrow garden.

But once inside, the unit opens into a double-story interior atrium that streams light from the second floor loft and diffuses it through the great room and kitchen. More light pours in from the west-facing windows that – surprise! – overlook a manmade channel. Boats bob gently in the canal; just a few hundred yards away, commercial craft chug into the adjacent harbor. It’s five minutes by boat to Lake Michigan – a trip that starts at the dock that stretches from the condo’s lawn.

Two-thirds of the 300 condos in the development are second homes, relates Richard Huckendubler. The couple bought their unit nearly a decade ago and planned to enjoy it for a few years, then sell and pour their equity into a new-construction project on another Lake Michigan lot. “That won’t happen,” says Richard Huckendubler wryly. The market has undermined those plans, but the couple expects to maximize the equity they do recapture by selling by owner; otherwise, a slice of the funds needed for the construction project would be lost to a broker commission.

At $595,000, they have already dropped the price by $90,000 since putting the unit on the market in 2007.

The Huckendublers hope that the condo’s flexible layout will speak for itself. The ground level offers an in-law or guest suite, complete with bedroom (now used as an office); living area, full bath, and walk-out patio facing the channel. It’s even possible to enter from the outside without navigating any stairs, thanks to a sloping side walkway. The first-floor master suite means that baby boomers can live mainly on the first floor. “We’re like cats,” says Huckendubler of the second-floor loft, where the couple relaxes in the sun and watches the marine traffic with binoculars.

Vacation Homes are More Likely to be Sold By Owner: National Association of Realtors

Selling a high-end vacation home that defies assumptions about the local market isn’t easy in the best of times.

The condo neighbors send househunting visitors to those whose units are for sale. (Click here for the ForSaleByOwner condo buying and selling guide.) The boating community, as well, continually circulates updates about houses with docks – coveted amenities in fishing-crazed western Michigan.

Current market conditions aside, selling a home in a vacation market will go at its own pace. Second-home buyers consider the journey part of the destination; leisurely househunting becomes a hobby in itself.

The Huckendublers have paced their expectations accordingly, knowing that chances of finding a buyer increase as more visitors discover Manistee.

More on vacation homes:  Prices are down. Values are up. Is this your moment to buy that dream second home?

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