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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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