@properties, which operates a Harbor Country office, has more than 1,100 licensed real estate agents throughout Chicago and its suburbs. Courtesy @properties
Chicago real estate firm @properties opened its new Harbor Country office last month in New Buffalo to serve clients in southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana.
@properties, the largest Chicago real estate broker by transactions and sales volume, and the second largest and fastest growing brokerage firm on the North Shore,said that the new office will allow it to cater to the “second home market” as its affluent client base begins to contemplate second home purchases once again with the rebounding economy and housing market.
According to the Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce website, Harbor Country proper spans about 15 miles north along Lake Michigan and six miles inland, and includes the Michiana, Grand Beach, New Buffalo, Union Pier, Lakeside, Harbert, Sawyer and Three Oaks communities.
The area is a hotbed for second home purchases due to its proximity to the West Michigan lakeshore and Chicago, its wealth of outdoor recreation options, a slower paced lifestyle and its spectacular natural vistas.
“People enjoy the beach and boating and just getting out of the city, the peace and quiet,” said Louis Price, managing broker for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. “It’s a little slower lifestyle, which makes it great.”
Harbor Country is primarily a second home market, which fared similarly to other second home markets in the country as the recession took hold.
“It’s probably five years ago that it started to taper off a little bit,” Price said. “As the economy went down, people got a little nervous about spending their money. Even people with very high incomes with a lot of assets were nervous about their jobs, too, and they held on a little tighter to their money.”
As a result, prices and home sales dropped in Harbor Country.
Today, Price said prices seem to be leveling off and are nearer to their 2005-2006 values. He said although prices are still lower, the volume of sales is increasing.
“People started coming and buying properties again,” he said. “We are seeing more and more Illinois people coming back to the area and looking for second homes.”
@properties agrees with this assessment.
“The cottage market is starting to pick up again,” said @properties broker Gail Lowrie. “Excess inventory has been cleared out, and prices have bottomed. It’s similar to what’s happening on the other side of the lake.”
@properties expects the second home market in Harbor Country to continue to rebound as indicated by the company’s staffing and hiring plans. Currently its new office is staffed with five brokers — all of whom came from the Michigan office of Chicago-based Prudential Rubloff — and the company expects to add another dozen brokers to the office by the start of summer.