Luxury Abounds

As the region’s housing market recovers, lavish homes priced above $1 million are moving again, but a full recovery is still on the horizon.

For more than 25 years, Ronni Keating has aided some of the region’s most prominent people — from the top automotive executives like former General Motors Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson to Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander — make one of life’s most personal and expensive decisions: buying a home.

Keating, a real estate agent with Sotheby’s International Realty in downtown Birmingham who was dubbed “Gatekeeper of Bloomfield Hills” by Town and Country magazine, specializes in exclusive properties where prices often top seven figures. Along with the economy in general, that rarified market shrank during the 2008 global financial crisis. But as Michigan’s economy continues to recover, Keating is on the fast track once again — she has 45 homes priced at $1 million or more listed in Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, and Oakland County’s lake district.

“I’ve seen shifts in the market up and down, but there’s a confidence level coming to our area now,” Keating says. “Just a few years ago, executives and athletes moving to town were told to lease and not buy properties because (the area was) not a good investment. But a lot of auto executives who came in for the North American International Auto Show (in January) were looking at real estate to buy, not lease. An executive from a water purifying business just bought a high-end home. (Our business) was up 13 percent last year. I think 2014 is going to be amazing.”

In 2009, 58 homes in the region were sold for between $1 million and $2 million (46 in Oakland County and 12 in Wayne County), for a total value of $76 million, according to Realcomp, a multiple listing service in Farmington Hills. The luxury properties spent an average of 302 days on the market.

By 2013, the number of homes sold in the $1 million to $2 million range had grown to 183 (161 in Oakland County, 21 in Wayne County, and one in Macomb County), representing combined sales of $239 million. The average number of days on the market in 2013 fell to 64. As of late January, 236 properties in Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties were listed for more than $1 million.

“There’s tremendous growth in this market. The homes that were built in 2008 and 2009 that we sold for $550,000 are now going for $750,000,” says Lisa Hall, CEO and broker/owner of ReMax Dream Properties in Northville. “In 2009, our percentage of $1 million homes companywide was 3 percent; this year that will be closer to 10 percent. The problem is that there’s no inventory, so they sell as quickly as we get them — whether it’s $500,000, $800,000, or $1.2 million.”

Hall says home sales of $1.4 million on up trail less opulent offerings, in part, because professional athletes — who make up a part of the luxury market — are being advised to steer clear of mega-mansions. “I think a lot of them have had a lot of losses in the past few years and are very cautious, which is good,” she says.

Other segments of the real estate industry are benefiting from the boom in the luxury market. “We’re definitely seeing that market come back in a big way,” says Vito Terracciano, CEO of Arteva Homes in Bloomfield Hills, which has luxury developments in Oakland, Macomb, and Genesee counties. “We have a lot of customers from the auto industry, Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers, and professionals who own their own practices. Five years ago we were trending about 20 houses to 22 houses a year. In the last two to three months (November-January), we’ve sold 12 or 13 homes. I think we’re actually going to do more than 45 homes in 2014.”

As recently as 2010, prices in Arteva’s Clear Creek development in Rochester Hills ranged from $500,000 to $650,000. Today, Terracciano says the average price has jumped to $1 million. “The most expensive home we have in there is $1.7 million. People want all the amenities,” he says. One Arteva model home features a clubby man cave hidden behind a secret basement door, along with an indoor multi-sports court.

Harry Glanz, president of Capital Mortgage Funding in Southfield, says his firm’s mortgage volume for loans in the $300,000 to $500,000 price range increased 15 percent in 2013 from 2012. “Jumbo” loans of $500,000 and over were up 40 percent in the same period.

“I attribute the growth to pent-up demand,” Glanz says. “From 2006 through 2011, it was pretty tough around here. In January 2012 we noticed there was more activity. When you see (that) in the winter months in Michigan, you know it’s going to be a good year. (Last year) was better because people are feeling very secure and are willing to spend the money. There were a lot of trade-up buyers on the sidelines who chose to jump back in.”

Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, and the Grosse Pointes have traditionally been considered the “go-to” cities for luxury housing, but more house-hunters are discovering that Detroit’s historic neighborhoods and riverfront can offer gracious living at a value price. Jim Renberg, a personal chef, and Tom Atkinson, owner of the design firm Brush Park Studio, recently purchased a 1920s-era, 3,800-square-foot English Tudor mansion in Detroit’s Sherwood Forest neighborhood for $126,000. “In the last three years, every offer that we put on any house we lost to other bidders,” Renberg says. “These neighborhoods are hard to get into without a little bit of a (bidding) battle.”

Other historic neighborhoods are also gaining renewed interest. “I’m seeing growth in every market segment right now,” says Austin Black II, broker and president of City Living Detroit, a full-service residential brokerage firm in Detroit. “The buyer profile is pretty strong, and the number of banks that are lending in Detroit — Flagstar, Talmer, and
Ross Mortgage — is growing.”

Black says 19 residential properties in Detroit sold for more than $300,000 in 2013, with an average sale price of $370,000. In 2009, only two homes sold above $300,000, averaging $315,000.

Black also represents the Willys Overland Lofts in Midtown, with prices ranging from $174,000 to $700,000, and the Shorepoint Village condominiums on the Detroit River, where every home comes with a boat dock.

While the Grosse Pointe communities accounted for 11 home sales of between $1 million and $3 million in 2013, Grosse Pointe Shores holds the title for the region’s most expensive listing. The family home of Art Van Elslander, founder and chairman of Art Van Furniture Inc., was listed in January for $15.9 million. The chateau-style estate has six bedrooms, eight fireplaces, indoor and outdoor pools, an elevator, and a carriage house. Jaime Rae Turnbull, a listing agent with Higbie Maxon Agney in Grosse Pointe, is marketing the property through a network of agents and ads in The Wall Street Journal and The Robb Report.

Turnbull has had several showings but declines to offer details, other than to say the prospects were from both Michigan and out of state — and that there have been no price reductions. “We envision the buyer of this home would be a cash buyer,” she says. db




1. $15.9 MILLION
950 Lake Shore Rd.,
Grosse Pointe Shores Village

BUILT: 1991
This custom château-style estate with a private, gated entry is situated on 3.75 acres with 265 feet of shoreline on Lake St. Clair. A two-story foyer and great room includes a curved staircase and a floor-to-ceiling leaded glass window. The walkout lower level incorporates an open-concept family room with a theater, full kitchen, wine cellar, game room, exercise room, indoor cabana with sauna, steam room, and massage room leading to an indoor pool and spa. There’salso six en-suite bedrooms, a large kitchen, and a five-car garage.

2. $11.9 MILLION
3950 Franklin Rd.,
Bloomfield Twp.

BUILT: 1930
It’s the first time on the market for this lakefront manor on Lower Long Lake, which includes manicured gardens on 2.5 acres, a greenhouse, a maid’s wing, and a two-bedroom carriage house over a six-car garage. The foyer has a curved staircase and a fireplace. French doors along the lake side of the house offer water views from all rooms. The main home offers five bedrooms and a large kitchen.

3. $7.5 MILLION
6100 Bloomfield Glens Rd.,
West Bloomfield Twp.

BUILT: 2004
Enjoy private walking trails and a stream on this home’s secluded 5-acre wooded lot — yet it’s close to city amenities. The celebrity-lifestyle features include a tennis court, gym, in-ground pool, hot tub, and dry sauna. The additional kitchen, bar, and multipurpose room make it a great spot for entertaining and sports.

4. $6.7 MILLION
5537 Orchard Ridge Dr.,

BUILT: 2007
This Country French Normandy manor with 14,000 square feet of space is situated on 4 acres. The home is designed with an extensive amount of imported stone, conveying the feeling of a European country estate with large stone terraces that overlook the expansive, private, gated property. A separate apartment is located over the six-car garage.

5. $5.7 MILLION
4600 Charing Cross Rd.,
Bloomfield Twp.

BUILT: 2007
This modern home has impressive two-story window views that overlook 4.5 acres of property. The design incorporates warm woods, steel, glass, and stained concrete. The home’s 17,000 square feet of space includes three fireplaces, a built-in sound system, a spa retreat with pool, cabana, and bar. Additionally, there is an eight-car garage, wine cellar, theater, and yoga room.

*Based on price for homes in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties  Source: SKBK Sotheby’s International Realty, Birmingham





1. $3.8 MILLION
5321 Trillium Ct.,
Orchard Lake

BUILT: 2001
Situated on all-sports Upper Straights Lake, this home offers a gym, steam room, wine cellar, kitchen, and a bar in a walkout basement. It’s been prepped for an elevator, and there are six fireplaces with imported stone. The bonus space above the garage can accommodate two more bedrooms.

2. $3.7 MILLION
2634 Comfort St.,
West Bloomfield Twp.

BUILT: 2002
This 14,000-square-foot home on all-sports Walnut Lake includes a grand entrance with a spiral staircase, a soaring ceiling, and picturesque views of the lake. The lower walkout includes a kitchen, billiard room, bar, and banquet hall. All appliances and chandeliers stay. Added bonuses in this first-time-on-the-market home are an indoor hot tub, a four-season room, and a five-car, side-entry garage.

3. $3.5 MILLION
1867 Long Pointe Dr.,
Bloomfield Twp.

BUILT: 1980
This beautiful lakefront home, located on 1.27 acres on the north shore of all-sports Upper Long Lake, offers plenty of natural light along with lake views from all rooms. There’s a luxurious master suite, a gourmet kitchen, and a breakfast room, as well as an indoor gym with a basketball court, an infinity-edge pool, and a central vacuum system.

790 Lakeside Dr.,

BUILT: 2005
An exquisite home featuring quality craftsmanship and sweeping views of Quarton Lake, and within walking distance of downtown Birmingham. Highlights include a gourmet kitchen, walnut trim, and a master room with a marble bath and mosaic tile floor. The lower level has travertine floors, expansive windows, a theater wine cellar, and steam/shower room.

5. $2.6 MILLION
15410 Windmill Pointe,
Grosse Pointe Park

BUILT: 1923
This lakefront English manor offers excellent views of Lake St. Clair. The first-floor master suite includes his-and-her dressing rooms. There is also a new gourmet kitchen, and a nanny suite. There are first- and second-floor laundries, an attached heated garage, wine cellar, hot tub, spa, heated in-ground pool, and an air cleaner.

Based on price for homes in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties Source: SKBK Sotheby’s International Realty, Birmingham
Long Pointe photograph courtesy of Anna Pecoraro