Traverse City Record-Eagle


May 11, 2014

Demand for rentals, in-town housing skyrockets

TRAVERSE CITY — Michele Holland built two successful residential home developments in northern Michigan.

Then the recession hit.

Holland’s third project, Glacier Ponds, off County Road 633 in Green Lake Township, froze for nearly seven years as construction starts and bank loans ground to a halt.

“I stopped building. Stopped dead cold,” Holland said. “The bottom fell out.”

Glacier Ponds’ fate is now warming in sync with an improving economy. Houses in a $160,000 and up price range that target blue-collar workers are selling briskly this spring on mostly one-acre lots. But Holland and other real estate experts said the recession and its aftermath brought with it long-term changes to northern Michigan development and real estate markets.

Among them:

n Reality #1: Demand for new residential construction is back, but with a huge shift in market demand. More customers want new homes in developments closer to Traverse City and community centers, as opposed to developments in rural areas that require long commutes to and from work.

“I’m about as far out as you’d want to go now where you can still make it,” Holland said. “You get much further out than me and … it’s cost-prohibitive.”

n Reality #2: The recession’s foreclosures and job losses created a huge, insatiable demand for rental housing in the Grand Traverse region.

“Very high demand for rentals and a low supply … our members are scrambling trying to find rentals for people building a new home or moving to the area,” said Kim Pontius, executive vice president of the Traverse Area Association of Realtors. “It’s always been a challenge, but it’s really exacerbated with shortage of inventory.”

Building permit statistics show new residential construction is on a huge rebound, with new residential building permits spiking dramatically in almost all Grand Traverse County townships and communities from 2012 to 2013.

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