Lansing Home Sales Rise with Trendy Commercial Sectors

Lansing’s residential real estate market is continuing to improve with gains in the city and surrounding counties, supported by strong commercial growth in hot areas like Old Town.

Fourth quarter comparisons by Coldwell Banker Hubbell BriarWood (CBHB) reflect strengthening home prices, shrinking inventory and quicker sales. Year-over-year comparisons are similarly buoyant.

“We are a very happy industry. The banks are lending money and people are buying. The percentage of the market not in distressed sales is down and that’s a positive thing,” said Greater Lansing Area Realtors (GLAR) President Kim Dunham, owner/broker of Keller Williams Lansing.

What the local market lacks is enough homes to sell. “We are down on listings and need more inventory,” she said. Home sale closing volume reported by GLAR was up 16 percent year-over-year, Dunham said, providing a significant boost to the area economy.

“We know that the housing market sets the pace for a lot of industries,” she said. And the numbers tell the story. According to its analysis of the regional real estate market, CBHB found that:

  • Unit residential sales were up 6.3 percent compared to 2015 4th quarter.
  • Volume of sold values were up 8.4 percent compared to 2015 4th quarter
  • Average sold price increased 1.9 percent and the median sold price also increased 6.2 percent
  • Available listings decreased 17.9 percent
  • Active listings averaged a 16.8 percent-inflated asking price, while listings sold averaged only a 2.4 percent higher list price than sold price.

CBHB noted the buoyant real estate market was aided by gains in the Lansing region’s labor force which increased by 3.5 percent quarter-to-quarter.

The range of housing sold in the region is striking, particularly the difference between homes in the city of Lansing and the surrounding communities. For the 4th quarter, the average price of a home sold in the city was $84,309; in East Lansing, the average sold price was $179,652; in Holt/Dimondale it was $159,436; in Waverly, $119,671; and in Williamston, $201,553.

What the price differences mask is the diversity of the Lansing real estate market and the growing appeal of core city neighborhoods. Housing projects in-and-around Cooley Law School Stadium, along Michigan Avenue and the desire to live in hot areas like Old Town are emerging from the aftermath of the Great Recession.

What has prompted Old Town’s resurgence is its mix of shopping, dining, commercial and residential properties.

Joel Ferguson, who in 2002 built 20 units of brick townhomes between Turner Street and the Grand River, is considering another housing project on land near the original development.

“We still own property in the back, so I’m looking at another phase,” Ferguson said in January. “When we built our On the Grand condos here, I overbuilt. I didn’t think I could turn around the area unless I built high quality homes. People won’t come if the bar is too low.”

Ferguson, whose development company’s offices are adjacent to his housing project, believes his commitment to the area has contributed to an Old Town renaissance. “Old Town is a destination and everything feeds off each other,” he said.

With limited homeownership opportunities in Old Town, the rental market is particularly strong, according to Brian Huggler, an associate broker with CBHB.

“People there just love the loft apartments, with their brick walls and hardwood floors. When they come on the market they generally rent pretty quickly with people paying, what for Lansing are, premium rents.”

He cited a 1,000-square-foot loft apartment with two bedrooms and one bath in Old Town leasing for $1,300 a month. It’s housing that he said appeals to young professionals not really interested in homeownership but wanting to live in a “cool place.”

Because it is popular and trendy, the residential housing offerings in Old Town are limited. Serving as a clearinghouse for real estate sales and leasing. In January, The Old Town Commercial Association listed a two bedroom/one bath single family home on Camp Street, selling at $45,000. Other properties, closer to the neighborhood’s core, are a $993-a-month one bed/one bath apartment in the Walker Building on N. Washington Ave. and a single family home, also on N. Washington, with three income producing rentals.

The Association’s listings for commercial and industrial properties suggest that options for retailing and service businesses are particularly tight. “There is so much enthusiasm for leasing space and commercial development, with new business opportunities coming up daily,” said Dave Ledebuhr, owner of Musselman Realty. He said lease rates have been increasing as the value of commercial property has improved.

“People are seeing the upside of investing. There are some lovely restaurants, galleries and retail shops.” Ledebuhr cited attractions like the Lansing River Trail and the Brenke Fish Ladder, cautioning that as the area continues to grow parking concerns will need solutions.

Mickey Hirten

Mickey Hirten

Mickey Hirten is an award winning writer and editor. He has been executive editor of the Lansing State Journal, the Burlington Free Press in Vermont, and was the financial editor and a columnist for the Baltimore Evening Sun. He is the current president of the Michigan Press Association. His wife, Maureen Hirten, is director of the Capital Area District Library.

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