Sidney Richardson7-Minute read
UPDATED: March 10, 2023
Do you dream of owning a home along the shore of a beautiful lake? With four seasons, abundant wildlife and, of course, a whole lot of lakes, buying a house in Michigan might be the perfect way to make your lake house dreams come true.
Believe it or not, you don’t have to win the lottery or have millions stowed away in the bank to buy waterfront property for you and your family. A second house or vacation home can be a surprisingly feasible investment – and when you’re not using it yourself, you can rent it out to make some extra income.
But where is the best place to start the hunt for your own little slice of lakeside paradise? Let’s look at a few of the best places to buy a lake house in Michigan.
Michigan is one of the best states for lakefront living – it is home to the Great Lakes, after all.
Besides the majestic Great Lakes, Michigan is also home to over 11,000 inland lakes, so whether you’d prefer life on the beaches of Lake Michigan or somewhere more private, there’s a lakeside for you.
Michigan experiences all four seasons, with typically hot summers and very cold, snowy winters. For lovers of the outdoors, there are lake activities to be done year-round – from swimming in the summer to ice fishing during winter. And, according to data compiled by BestPlaces, the cost of living in Michigan is lower than the United States average, making it an overall more affordable place to buy waterfront homes than many of the coastal states.
If you’re eager to explore your lakefront living options, let’s go through a handful of the best places to buy a lake house in Michigan.
This list of cities was put together based on BestPlaces and U.S. Census 2019 – 2021 data regarding the population, median home price and median income of the areas listed as well as the proximity of each location to nearby lakes. Keep in mind the median home price for an area may not reflect the price of waterfront property entirely accurately; real estate directly on the water tends to be worth more due to higher demand.
Saugatuck is a quiet town nestled between the Kalamazoo River and the beautiful shoreline of Lake Michigan. Once a port town, it’s now a popular summer tourist destination for its beautiful beaches, art galleries and interesting shops. Only around 1,000 people live in Saugatuck year-round, though the population more than doubles in summer when vacationers from across the Midwest pour in.
Many tourists are attracted to Saugatuck for its vibrant art community and for the legendary Oval Beach, a pristine beach beside Lake Michigan renowned around the world for its beauty. The city is also a short drive from Holland, a city with strong Dutch roots and a popular spring tulip festival.
Saugatuck has a unique culture forged by decades of summer visitors from Chicago and other nearby Midwestern cities and would be a great place to spend your summers on the water if you love the arts or a unique small-town feel.
Grand Haven is another city located along Lake Michigan’s eastern shore, though it also rests upon the Grand River, which flows all the way into Grand Rapids. Grand Haven is home to beautiful, sandy beaches and, most notably, the historic Grand Haven Lighthouse, which was built in 1839. The city is a big tourist attraction in the summer thanks to its beaches, lush parks and campgrounds.
Residents of the city enjoy plenty of water activities in the summer, including swimming, boating, tubing, sailing and even surfing. A skate park, a ski park and an annual kite festival are a few other attractions that keep summer visitors coming back year after year.
Grand Haven is also a short drive from Grand Rapids, the second largest city in Michigan, which makes Grand Haven an excellent spot for aspiring waterfront property owners who might want the charm of a summer cottage with the amenities of a big city nearby.
Traverse City is a city located on the northeastern shore of Lake Michigan. It rests on the Grand Traverse Bay, a deep 32-mile-long bay that flows into the lake. The city is widely known as the “cherry capital” of Michigan, since it produces the largest majority of tart cherries in the United States. The area is also a big producer of grapes, making it a favorite destination of Midwestern wine lovers.
The city is full of natural beauty, from the beautiful lakeshore to the peaceful forests and vineyards. Traverse City is a great place for those seeking a tranquil escape as well as access to a lively city culture. There is plenty to do around the Grand Traverse Bay, especially in summer and fall, when the Traverse City Film Festival and Traverse City Beer Week are held.
Houghton Lake is a popular area for water sports and fishing year-round. It’s located in northern mid-Michigan, just south of Grayling and southeast of Traverse City. Houghton Lake itself is a fairly shallow lake, with its deepest point being just 22 feet, and is beloved by fishermen for its large variety of fish and game.
Houghton Lake is a popular lake destination even in colder months, when it hosts Michigan’s largest winter festival, Tip Up Town USA. While there are thousands of vacation cabins and homes along Houghton Lake’s shore, it’s a smaller town than somewhere like Traverse City or Grand Haven and may perfectly suit house hunters seeking an area more focused on outdoor activities like fishing or boating.
Munising is located along the southern shore of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula (called “the U.P.” by Michigan natives). It’s a small town that houses one of Michigan’s most beautiful destinations – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Pictured Rocks is widely known for its unique and majestic rock formations, which visitors can kayak around to explore or view from a boat or ferry tour.
Munising also faces Grand Island, a sparsely populated island known for its natural beauty. This city is a great destination for nature lovers who don’t mind (or prefer) living a distance away from any big cities. If you can withstand the intense winters, it’s a scenic and peaceful summer destination with plenty to explore outdoors.
Marquette is the largest city in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and is located on the shore of Lake Superior. It’s home to Northern Michigan University and is a major port. There’s plenty to do in the U.P.’s largest city, including fishing, hiking, biking, skiing, snowboarding, exploring local breweries and much more.
Marquette is also home to a variety of museums and arts festivals as well as other events year-round. As a city in the Upper Peninsula, it’s somewhat isolated from other larger cities and towns, but has almost all the amenities you might need within the bounds of the city. Marquette is a great place for any aspiring lakefront homeowner to purchase property and has a little bit of something for everyone, whether you’re an outdoor lover or more intrigued by city life on the lake.
Muskegon is a city just north of Grand Haven that also faces Lake Michigan. It’s known as Michigan’s “port city” in honor of the many fishing boats, sailboats and other vessels that often dot the shoreline. It’s one of the larger cities in Western Michigan and it’s home to many tourist attractions, including Michigan’s Adventure, which is Michigan’s largest amusement/water park.
Muskegon has a lively arts scene and is home to many festivals, museums and interesting places to shop. Like Grand Haven, Muskegon is near Grand Rapids, so there’s plenty to do around this city. Muskegon is a great choice for any lake house buyer, especially those with an interest in boating or sailing that could make use of its port.
If you’re looking to buy a property with beautiful waterfront views but you’re unsure if you want a cabin or cottage in a more rural area, consider Detroit! Detroit sits right along the Detroit River, which connects to both Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie. While it may not be the first city you think of when you’re imagining a place with waterfront property, Detroit has plenty of real estate available on the water for city-loving lake house buyers.
Detroit is a city rich in history and culture and is full of activities for residents to explore and try. The city has a bustling downtown area, a lively music scene, plenty of delicious food, sports and so much more. If you’re interested in owning a lake house in or near Detroit, check out waterfront properties in the city, near Grosse Ile or even St. Clair Shores.
If you’re on the hunt for a lake house, either to live in or use as a vacation home, Michigan is a great place to start. With plenty of lakes all over the state, there’s a lake house for water lovers of all sorts – whether you want to be close to the city or enjoy the peace and quiet of the Upper Peninsula.
Keep in mind that these cities aren’t your only options, either; there are waterfront properties across the state, from cities like Ann Arbor to rural towns along Lake Huron. When looking for waterfront property, it’s important to find a place that speaks to you and your personal needs and interests.
If you’re ready to buy a house, check out homes for sale across Michigan on Rocket Homes℠.
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Floating homes offer the same comforts of land-locked houses with all the perks of waterfront property. Learn more about buying a floating house here.