A Guide to Buying a House in: Michigan

(Because the Great Lakes really are GREAT)

So, you're looking into buying a house in Michigan, but you're not completely convinced it's the right move for you. You're in luck, because we've put together a little guide to all things concerning the housing market of The Wolverine State (yeah, that's one of their nicknames - pretty cool, huh?). So we'll cover all the important/factual stuff, and even throw in a bit of fun stuff to keep it light. Let's get right to it.

The Most and Least Expensive Cities in Michigan

When crossing off your list of potential cities to move to, it's typically helpful to know which require the biggest and smallest amounts of your hard-earned money. We've whipped up a little list of a few of each. Check it out.

Most expensive cities:

  • Milan
  • Petoskey
  • Traverse City
  • Marquette
  • Houghton 

Least expensive cities:

  • Springfield
  • Albion
  • Jackson
  • Three Rivers
  • Hillsdale 

There it is. You're ready to make a more informed decision on your specific desired destination, while keeping your moolah situation in mind. No matter where you choose to buy your new house, you can find affordable home insurance within our trusted network.

Michigan's Housing Market

Another good thing to consider before moving to Michigan (or anywhere else) is the current status of the housing market in the place. So we'll keep groovin' right along to an overview of Michigan's housing market next.

Homes are currently staying on the market in the state for less than a month. And by the end of 2018, the inventory crisis that the state faced in 2017 should be all better. Houses are selling like hotcakes here, thanks in part to the growth in the state's economy. 

Michigan is the country's leader in the automotive industry, but there's also a strong showing in food, energy, health, IT and transportation. However, not-so-great inventory and high prices mean that the market is not currently in the buyer's favor. But there's still hope - the rise in home prices could coax more people to start selling, meaning more inventory will become available - so the market could turn around and give buyers the upper hand in the near future. Fingers crossed.

If you want to move to one of the state's hot spots, you'll need to look at Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor or Lansing. Grand Rapids has a great arts community and nightlife scene. This place is happenin', with several annual festivals and the nickname "Beer City, USA." Basically, people here know how to party. Average home values in the city are currently around $141,900 and rising. Renting a place costs between $1,150 and $1,362/month. 

Ann Arbor is a college town, but it's also known as a "medical mecca." Home values here average $353,100. Lansing, the state's capital, has a good music scene and rich nightlife. Home values are a bit lower/more affordable, at about $81,000 - however, this is a HUGE increase of 12.3% - since just 2017. 

Lastly, check it out - Michigan's got tons of new construction underway, mostly throughout the southern half of the state - from Grand Rapids to Lansing and Ann Arbor (see? the hot spots). There's also a tiny bit of development in progress further north, around Traverse City. If you've got your heart set on a new place, now you know where to hunt.

Home Property Values and Costs in Michigan

While it's great to know WHERE to search for your new home, it might interest you even more to know HOW MUCH the place will cost. Luckily, home prices and values are up next.

For starters, the average home value in the state currently is $143,100. Homes are listed on the market for about $184,900, and renting a house costs about $1,101/month. The price per square foot averages $131. As far as home appreciation goes, home values were up 6.8% in 2018, and are expected to rise another 8.9% during 2019 - which is a big increase.

That's great and all, but what about those on the hunt for apartments/condos? Well, places in Milan are currently listed for an average of $780/month. Detroit's got places listed for around $987/month, and Grand Rapids has them listed for around $1,009/month. You'll pay a bit less in Lansing - about $787/month, or in Jackson - about $713/month.

Now listen up, townhouse seekers, this part's for you. The average range in rent for townhouses in Michigan starts off low at $425/month for a one-bed/one-bath place, and tops off at a high of $4,400/month for a six-bed/two-bath place.

You'll Want to Review Your Tornado Coverage in Michigan

So you know where you want to look for a place in Michigan and about what it'll cost you, but do you know about the state's specific insurance policy requirements? Well, to be straight with you, Michigan is a big fan of tornadoes. In fact, it's home to THREE main tornado alleys. So what does this mean for you? 

Well, that you'll need to review the insurance you've got, to make sure you don't need any more. Luckily most homeowners insurance policies include coverage for tornadoes, but you'll need to check out your specific policy to up your confidence level to bullet-proof status.

Some policies may require you to get an additional, separate tornado insurance rider, or to specifically name tornadoes among events that you want them to cover. Damage to your actual home and personal possessions is typically covered by a regular homeowners policy. 

If you're a renter, your renters insurance should cover your personal property, while your landlord should cover building damage. Your policy is also likely to provide short-term housing in case the storm is extra-nasty and leaves you temporarily homeless, which wouldn't be cool.

Basically, it's imperative to know everything covered by YOUR specific policy, because you do NOT want to find out that you were lacking adequate coverage after a storm hits. That just wouldn't be fun at all. Don't be shy about giving your agent a call if your confidence is even a little bit lacking. Seriously.

...and Maybe Add Some Flood Insurance, Too

Additionally, depending on where you live, you might need even more coverage - flood insurance. Michigan borders on four of the Great Lakes, and while water is pretty, it does have the tendency to overflow and cause flooding sometimes. So if you're in an area deemed to be high-risk, your mortgage lender might require you to purchase extra coverage specifically for flooding. 

However, it's important to note that even areas not in designated high-risk areas might still require this coverage. Why? Because as that old annoying expression goes, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Alright, so you might need it, but what exactly IS it? Well, broken down, flood insurance will cover your property (the actual structure of your home and the belongings in it - to an extent) if natural water (i.e., rain, waves, etc.)  wreaks havoc. Many policies will say that the water must cover at least two acres of normally dry land in order to qualify for reimbursement. 

Look, no one WANTS to pay more money for additional insurance policies, but wouldn't you rather be covered/prepared, in the long run? These details are just something to add to your long list of stuff to think about before you up and move to a new state. And keep in mind that any state you choose will come with its own flavor of potential natural disasters.

Quality of Schools in Michigan

Planning to get your education on after your move? Then you might wanna know about the school system in Michigan. We'll take a peek at what it's like right now.

Here are some WalletHub stats about how Michigan schools ranked in the country:

  • #31 overall for the US
  • #27 for quality
  • #44 for safety

The top-rated schools in Michigan are the International Academy of Macomb high school, in Clinton Township, and the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.


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Reasons to Move to Michigan (...or not)

Now that we've gotten all the serious stuff out of the way, time to move on - to the fun stuff. (Awww, yeahhh.) So why would someone even WANT to move to Michigan, you ask? Well, let's hear some of the arguments for/against moving to The Water Winter Wonderland (yup, another wacky state nickname) from some people who already live there.

PROs (as voted by real-life Michiganders):

  • Low cost of living: According to bestplaces.net, the cost of living index in Michigan for 2018 was 88.3 - well below the national average (100). The index for groceries was 95.5, health was 96, and housing was 67. Wanna save some dough? Move to Michigan.
  • Grand Rapids: This city's so cool, it was ranked one of the top 20 places to live in the country by U.S. News & & World Report in 2017. It's the second-largest city in Michigan, and has a great community vibe as well as a ton of job opportunities. Also, as we mentioned earlier, the locals here are just crazy about beer.
  • Higher education opportunities: The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is ranked as one of the top ten law schools in the country. Additionally, Michigan is home to other top-rated universities, including Michigan State University, in East Lansing, and Central Michigan University, in Mt. Pleasant.
  • The Great Lakes: If there's one thing Michigan's known for, it's the Great Lakes - so it's really not shocking that the state's also been nicknamed The Great Lake State (how original). The state is up close and personal with Lake Erie, Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan -- that's some massive amount of fresh water - the largest on Earth, in fact. The lakes provide all kinds of great water-related activities and some super-popular vacation spots. Plus, they're pretty.

CONs (also from the mouths of real Michiganders):

  • Pricey learning: Those top-rated universities come at a price - literally. Michigan's average student debt at graduation is the 12th-worst in the country as of 2018. Hello, scholarship applications.
  • Harsh winters: Michiganders want their prospective neighbors to know that winters here are no joke - and if you think you've seen snow/ice storms before, you'll be laughing at those memories after experiencing them here. Locals also point out that in the Upper Peninsula of the state, winters tend to stretch on for about half of the year - seriously. You're lookin' at six-ish months of coooooold temperatures, and very little sunshine. Also, the state's got an average annual snowfall of more than 200 inches. That's a lotta shovelin'. 
  • Lack of job opps: The economy is on an upswing and has been for a few years now, but locals say it's still a bit tough to find a job. Of course, some parts of the state are doing better than others. Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and Lansing should be good bets to get your employment on. 

Stuff to Do in Michigan

So, we've covered WHY people move to Michigan, but WHAT do people do here, once they become Michiganified? We also checked in with the locals to find out some insider's secrets to fun stuff to do, from museums to beaches and more.

Here are just a few of the state's coolest attractions:

  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: On Lake Michigan, you'll find this gem of a local favorite vacation spot. It's got gorgeous beaches, inland lakes and green forests, for starters. The variety of terrain allows for opps to hike, bike, or do all sorts of water-related activities. You can also check out the towering sand dunes as a bonus adventure.
  • Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation: It only makes sense that this one would be on our list, considering Michigan is the automotive capital of the US. In Dearborn, you'll find this museum that tells all about the history of the automobile and other old school American inventions. You'll even get to check out some of Henry Ford's personal collections from his estate. Plus, they've got the actual limo that JFK was riding in at the time of his assassination. Now that's a famous historic automobile.
  • Detroit: It's no secret that Detroit has seen its share of hard times in the not-too-distant past - but in recent years, the city's been making a serious comeback. It's now being referred to as "one of the most innovative and progressive cities in the nation," in fact. And we can understand that better since we found out that this place has such goodies to offer as the Motown Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and a gorgeous walkway along the Detroit Riverfront. There's really something to entertain just about anyone.
  • Upper Peninsula: Looking for a place without many people? Check out Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Though the area makes up 29% of the state's landmass, it's only got a measly 3% of the total population spread across it. It's also got more than 300 national parks and waterfalls. Plus, it's a viewing point for the Northern Lights. If you can toughen up against the cold, your eyes will thank seriously you.
  • The Great Lakes: Yes, they're a PRO and a thing to actually go to and get your fun on. With thousands of miles of coastline to check out, you'll never get tired of visiting the state's four out of five of the Great Lakes. There's also plenty of national parks in these areas, and other lakeside attractions such as shopping and restaurants. Break out the boat shoes.

Making a Splash in Michigan

Well folks, there it is - our little sneak preview of the housing market in Michigan, with some extra fun goodies thrown in. Clearly it's not within our power to address ALL factors about the state that may concern you before buying a house here (we've got some lake stuff to do), but we're hoping you're better-informed and closer to making that decision than when we found you.

If the Great Lakes of Michigan are begging you to make them your new home, then hop to it. Make sure your new home is covered properly with an affordable home insurance policy.

Good luck.

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