Vacation homes eat up inventory, deepen income divide in this Michigan county

Running 36 miles along the Lake Huron shoreline Alcona County has prime real estate on the sun rise side of the state. But when temperatures drop and the sand toys are packed, half the homes go vacant.

The county was dubbed a hot vacation county in 2020 by the National Association of Realtors. The rural, northern county of roughly 10,000 people landed in the top ten of the national rankings list and in the top 1% for sales growth, price growth, change in days on market, and the number of seasonal homes.

Its popularity as a part-time destination, however, deepens income divides and creates housing woes in one of Michigan’s poorest counties.

Alcona stood out among vacation hot spots due to its concentration of vacation homes. The report estimated 49.8% of all homes are seasonally vacant. In 2020, median home prices more than doubled. At the start of 2023, the median listing price was $185,000, another 20% year-over-year increase, according to

This starkly contrasts Alcona County’s demographics.

One in eight people live in poverty, according to the 2020 Census. And one in three people in the county are seniors, leaving little room for upward mobility.

You don’t have to look at numbers to see the divide, although they tell a clear story — list prices ranged from $4,500 to $1.2 million, according to data from January 2023.

Along the lakeshore, homes in the city of Harrisville, the county seat, are expansive, modern and tidy. There are 71 boat slips in the marina, half of which are occupied by seasonal boaters, and electric-vehicle chargers in the parking lot. The vacationers from downstate have brought their metro amenities with them.

But just one block inland and the cottages grow older and smaller.

There’s not much middle ground, said Matt

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