Million dollar condos. More than 1,000 mortgages granted to Detroit homebuyers this year. Construction crews filling the roads and skyline of greater downtown.
For years now, Detroit has been that big American city where someone could buy a home on the cheap — or relatively so. And while that is still the case in many neighborhoods throughout the city, there are several areas where it’s become increasingly difficult to find an affordable home. Prices have skyrocketed in places like Corktown and Brush Park, the trendy West Village, or the re-branded Midtown (formerly, the Cass Corridor).
“You can’t find a home for under $250,000 in Corktown or Midtown unless it’s completely burnt out and you’re buying the dirt,” says Austin Black II, realtor, founder, and president of City Living Detroit. “Because of how the city has improved overall, plus the more popular area’s price points rising, it forces people to look in other neighborhoods.”
While those higher-end neighborhoods are still fetching buyers, where are the middle-income buyers finding their homes? Lots of places, actually.
“The main thing that we’re seeing, for houses in that $100,000 to $200,000 range, is that it’s still a very competitive market,” says Ryan Cooley, owner of O’Connor Real Estate. “Especially if the house is in good condition.”
Hot residential neighborhoods tend to have three things in common: quality housing stock, neighborhood amenities, and affordable price points. Some examples include Jefferson-Chalmers, Southwest Detroit near and west of Clark Park, the Aviation Subdivision, and the North End.
But neighborhoods both Black and Cooley highlighted are East English Village, Bagley-Fitzgerald, and Grandmont-Rosedale.
East English Village
Located on the city’s far east side, East English Village is one of those neighborhoods that contains a high quality housing stock at an affordable price point. Its beautiful brick homes have held up well over the years, yet almost all still sell for below $200,000.
It’s the type of place that realtors take prospective homebuyers that are looking to stay in the city or move to it.
“These neighborhoods have great housing stock and you can’t get a comparable house in the suburbs for the same price point,” Black says. “It’s perfect for the first-time homeowner without a lot of money but willing to take a chance and invest in a neighborhood.”
East English Village is conveniently located off I-94 with a number of shopping options; its proximity to the Grosse Pointes allows for even more. Its restaurant scene is strong, with such Detroit classics as a Sweetwater Express on Harper and the historic Cadieux Café on Cadieux.
Bagley and Fitzgerald are two different neighborhoods with different housing stocks. McNichols Road, more commonly referred to as Six Mile, bisects the two.
While Bagley, with its stately brick homes, may offer more move-in ready and typically-attractive options, Fitzgerald is the target of the city’s massive revitalization efforts that promises the rehabilitation of 115 vacant houses and 200 empty lots.
What connects the two neighborhoods are their location within the Live6 district, an area that features two colleges as well as a strong and continuously expanding shopping and dining scene.
Renovating houses goes a long way in improving the city’s real estate market. Houses that have already been rehabilitated are more likely to appeal to homebuyers as well as the banks willing to lend money. It’s happening throughout the city, but especially in Fitzgerald.
“I think what we’re seeing a lot of is that a larger number of investors are coming in and actually rehabbing the houses. It’s meant that houses which once weren’t financeable, now are,” Cooley says.
“It’s still hard to get a loan, but investors fixing their homes makes it a lot easier.”
Grandmont-Rosedale is an amalgamation of five different neighborhoods located along Grand River Avenue on the city’s westside. While different parts of the district may be more affordable than others, the five neighborhoods here offer the types of houses shoppers are looking for: Well-maintained brick homes that are attractive and affordable.
There’s a lot going for the area. It has one of the most robust grassroots communities in the entire city, with locally-organized clean-up crews, little league baseball, and a community theater group.
It also has a strong commercial corridor along the well-trafficked Grand River. Businesses old and new populate the strip, and there are plans afoot for a Grand River road diet, slowing down traffic and making the district a more walkable, pedestrian-friendly destination.
“With all of these areas, we’re starting to see commercial activity picking up,” Cooley says. “These places have those urban amenities typical of other cities.”
It’s hard to paint one picture of the entire city’s real estate market — it’s best gauged on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis. Still, the basics of real estate remain.
“You start at your pre-approved loan amount and then go to those neighborhoods,” Cooley says. “People look at what fits their budget.”
It’s just that which neighborhoods fit certain budgets have changed. As places like Corktown and West Village become less and less affordable, more and more people are purchasing homes in areas seen as under-the-radar by outsiders but as neighborhoods by the people that have lived there for years, decades, and generations.
Black sees more and more prospective buyers willing to do so. Some neighborhoods are doing the best they’ve done since the housing crisis of 2008. And outside of the greater downtown development bubble, too.
“There’s a higher confidence level in the city which means people are more willing to venture out into the neighborhoods that they weren’t flocking to before.”