Why the Inland Waterway Real Estate Market is So Unique

Our Northern Michigan (Emmet and Cheboygan Counties) Inland Waterway consists of Crooked and Pickerel Lakes, Crooked River, Burt Lake, Indian River, Mullett Lake, and the Cheboygan River. Each body of water along the waterway is entirely unique in putting value on the property/home. Further, if you break down each body of water, take Burt Lake, for example, West Burt Lake homes are going to be priced higher than those on Greenman’s Point.

So why is this? The answer: Market Value & Supply and Demand. Market Value is the actual amount that a person will pay for which something can be sold in a given market. Supply and Demand in flux will help determine if prices will be higher or lower based on how many homes are available and how many buyers are shopping.

Determining a Current Market Value

Real Estate agents use comparable homes to determine a Current Market Value of a home. The value is often given as a range that will help homeowners to set their prices. But it is when buyers and sellers come together to negotiate a sale price that the Market Value is finally determined.

On the Inland Waterway, there are pockets of values that make sense to be grouped together, these are primarily based on location. For example, on Crooked Lake, Oden Island homes are uniquely their own versus homes on the water in Oden.

A Deeper Look

There are 20 homes on Oden Island (to the best of our count). According to a mapping search of Oden Island (Northern Michigan MLS) there have been 11 sales in the past 20 years. Most of these sales were of vacant land. Of the homes that sold, the average sale price has been $513,300 (over all years). The most recent sale documented in the Northern Michigan MLS was in 2015 when a home sold at $530,000 by Paul Fairbairn.

In Oden, there have been 18 sales since 2004 (the NMMLS only goes back to 2000, no sales were recorded prior to 2004). The average sales price of all homes sold since ’04 is $389,886. The most recent sales recorded were in 2022 (3 sales). The sales were of condominium units not yet constructed. The average price of these condos was $609,000. Funnily enough, all sales recorded in Oden have been condos.

Now to compare. It wouldn’t be reasonable to compare an Oden Island home with an Oden condo because the builds are clearly different. Their waterfront would be different as one would be considered shared while the other would be private ownership. Also, privacy from the island home to the condominiums would also be vastly different. Years built, square footages, design elements, these things wouldn’t be comparable either.

Looking at Conway addresses on Crooked Lake, these too are mostly condominiums. So while we can reasonably conclude that these too, wouldn’t be good comparables for Oden Island homes, they may be good comparables for Oden condominiums. Well, not necessarily. One reason this is not true is that there are already many comparable condominiums in Conway, so comparing to Oden isn’t necessary.

What about Graham Road on Crooked Lake? Can these homes compare to Oden Island homes? Since 2003, 21 sales have occurred on Graham Road (some homes sold more than once). The average sale price has been $442,804. The highest sales price has been $730,000. Square footage ranges from 1,090 sq. ft. to 4,738 sq. ft. Waterfront footage ranges from 50 ft. of Crooked Lake frontage to 213 ft.

Again, the average sales price on Oden Island was $513,300. The highest sales price was $560,000. Square footage ranges from 1,827 sq. ft. to 2,826 sq. ft. Waterfront footage ranges from 120 ft. of Crooked Lake frontage to 293 ft.

So what do you think? Can you compare Graham Road listings to Oden Island listings? Probably not. A good reason is that there are enough homes on Graham Road that you wouldn’t want to use Oden Island comparables. On the reverse, Oden Island homes are still too unique to themselves. On average, their waterfront footages are more, their settings are more private, and their locations are too different.

Are you seeing a trend? There are pockets of comparable homes around Crooked Lake which are uniquely situated to be too different to present as good comparables for other locations. We looked at Oden, Conway, and Graham Road as comparables to Oden Island. It stands to reason that Ponshewaing, Eagle Beach, and even Channel Road homes are not going to be good fits compared to Oden Island.

This pattern will also hold true comparing Crooked Lake to Pickerel Lake and the different geographies on Pickerel Lake. McCarthy Road on Pickerel isn’t going to hold good comparables for Township Park Road (North versus South parts of the Lake). (These realities are also why Zillow’s Zestimates are often inaccurate.)

What happens when real estate agents can’t find comparable homes? There are other methods to finding a market value than solely using comparables. Real estate agents can broaden their timeline, use less desirable comparables and make adjustments, or an agent might recommend an appraisal be done.

*All information is provided by the Northern Michigan MLS and interpreted by Coldwell Banker Fairbairn Realty.


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