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Million Dollar Baby -- or Not

Fascinating Detroit News article in Monday's paper about how mansions on upscale Lakeshore Drive in the Grosse Pointes are just not selling.

Headline: "Metro Detroit's tony Lakeshore begs for homebuyers."

Yeah, yeah. Make your jokes. And many will say they don't care about how the rich are suffering. The harsh fact of the matter is we are all suffering under this recession and rapid reduction in home prices around Metro Detroit.

Here's why the Grosse Pointe story matters: When you cannot sell a home on one of the nicest streets in Michigan...When people are holding off on any improvement, including housing...When property values in a stable, attractive community are dropping through to the basement...We all need to care.

Lakeshore Drive, in case you have never seen it in person, is lovely. The houses are large, stately and well-kept. The road is lined with trees and flowers. It overlooks Lake St. Clair along most of the route. You never see anyone outside, and I don't know if any kids live in these mega homes. But it is something to aspire to -- they are houses you dream about buying if you won the lottery.

It's kind of nice that the dream is closer to a reality now, I suppose. But I'd rather have home values remain high rather than actually being able to afford a house on Lakeshore.

Some story highlights:

Down Lake Shore Road, an estate sale of an English-style mansion wrapped up early this month. A couple of blocks away, in the former estate of Henry Ford II that had been divided into smaller homes about two decades ago, an owner is considering dropping his asking price below $1 million -- in hopes of sparking a sale.

"You just have to deal with the reality," said owner D.J. Kennedy.

On this awe-inspiring stretch of mansions and high-end homes -- at some points it's called Lakeshore, at others Lake Shore Road or Lake Shore Drive -- the reality of realty is sobering.

Five homes are listed as bank-owned foreclosures, according to RealtyTrac, which follows foreclosures nationally.

The last $1 million home to sell on the prestigious stretch was in July, according to Kent Colpaert, principal broker of Bearing Group Real Estate Brokerage in Grosse Pointe Park. The last house sold at any price on this street was in September, for $465,000.

D.J. Kennedy, by the way, is one of the most sought-after decorators in the area. And if he's facing a grim reality, then all is pretty grim.

The Detroit News has done stories on this before (a great one by Charlie LeDuff) so it's hardly a new read. But I'm still fascinated by how the region is weathering this economic storm. (Sorry, Dyspathy, for being a cliche. DRINK!)

I live in this area, and our home value is incredibly diminished. I talked to a Realtor today about my street; he says the house about four doors down from me is about to go to the bank. The owner lost his job, but found another one in Ohio. The house has sat empty for at least a year. My family and I walk past it all the time, taking junk mail and miscellaneous newspapers off the front porch to keep it looking clean.

That's life in Metro Detroit right now -- trying to keep things looking normal when they feel like they're cracking at the seams.

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  • 1

    Karen, why are these obviously wealthy people selling their homes? Do they just want to relocate? There must be other reasons besides job loss.

  • 2

    The problem with primo real estate dropping in price is that people who are clueless as how to maintain it are able to take ownership.

    This phenomenon isn't limited to Grosse Pointe by any means. Detroit saw this happen when the Northern Group bought up the Penobscot Building, First National Building, Cadillac Tower, Lafayette Towers and Alden Park Towers and subsequently drove tenants away in, well, droves through poor management.

    That is, of course, before losing four of the five properties to foreclosure.

  • 3

    Good God Karen, have you lost it??? Something to aspire to?? Arghh... thud!

    I thought that you had better taste than that!

    These are ungodly nighmares!

    Some 20 years ago Rick Ratliff from the Detroit Free Press did an article with me on the hideous houses going up along Lake Shore.

    It has only gotten worse with the big foot monsters designed by builders with the kid draftsman in the basement.

    Feel sorry for some Idiot and his tasteless wife putting on a garish and profligate display? Gimme a break, no way.

    And the same thing has happened along East River on Grosse Ile. Tasteless, ghastly monster houses that define an era that deserved the crash. And wonderful Historic houses being ruined by misguided people who can't spell architect any more and can't ask for help because they know everything.

    In no way do they compare with the beautiful Architect designed houses of the 20's and 30s and earlier that abound in Detroit.

    The Republican Philosophies have caused this rapeof the beautiful lands.

    Engler got the legislation passed that obviated the need of a fine architect in residential construction... it's the same thing as in the banking industry... deregulation has caused this mess.

    Let us pray that Dave Bing picks up enough demolition money so that we can be rid of the pathetic monsters.

    Problem is he doesn't have a professionally developed plan either so why give him the money?

    Bill Ford knew enough to move away to a more enlightened area of Metro Detroit.

    jeff9809 Apparently is unaware of the concept of being greedy and overextended.

    Have some rich guy come in from New York and buy it all up? Nutsy coo coo!

    The recession is far from over.


  • 4

    FYI, mr. architect: Bill Ford Jr. had (might still have) his Ann Arbor place on the market for a long time and couldn't unload it.

  • 5

    When the people who own the businesses suffer, the masses who work at the businesses suffer. The sad economic climate is not limited to those without and the fact that those with are suffering means the rebound is much farther off than it appears for the mitten state.

  • 6

    Bill had a new one designed and I believe that he is in it.

    The one you speak of was designed by Dave Osler who I worked for in College.

    Surely Bill can afford to build one to meet his complex needs.

    Ann Arbor is full of wonderful, architect designed homes. At least there, they know how to spell and pronounce the word.


  • 7

    I have been dating a tax accountant who has about 3500 clients. She says that it is far more horrible than what some would like you to think.

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