Top Towns 2023

A look at the ZIP codes in metro Detroit that have seen the biggest boom in home sales amid a national housing shortage.
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Photograph courtesy of the City of Ann Arbor

To call the recent ups and downs in metro Detroit’s residential real estate market a “wild ride” is an understatement, says Oakland County Realtor Jim Shaffer. Like most of the nation, metro Detroit is suffering from an extreme housing inventory shortage. Why? Business Insider spells it out simply: “The U.S. hasn’t built enough homes in recent decades, and the shortage is among the reasons homes are unaffordable for many Americans.” And southeast Michigan has followed that trend.

Unlike during the post-World War II era, when returning GIs got help from the government to buy their first homes, which wrought a booming bungalow and tract housing market, today “there’s no plan in place,” Shaffer says.

A hike in interest rates to 7.5 percent (way up from the record low of 2.6 in January 2021) stalled the market last year, but with the recent drop to between 5.8 and 7.1 percent, the market is rolling again, except in the high-luxury sector.

Shaffer’s getting multiple offers on every house he lists, he says. “Seven offers is not uncommon,” he says. The offers have become so competitive that people are even waiving inspections, Shaffer says, which can be risky.

His company, Jim Shaffer and Associates, services the Woodward Corridor — Ferndale, Royal Oak, Berkley, Oak Park, Hazel Park, Clawson, Madison Heights, Pleasant Ridge, and Huntington Woods — and prices are rising in the most unimaginable way. Royal Oak saw its first million-dollar home sale back in 2019, and similar sales have followed. “Berkley is not quite there at $775,000,” he says.

The result? Buyers are looking in communities they might never have considered — still close to the amenities they are seeking, but not previously on their radar — which can only mean good news for the metro area as a whole, because, thanks to shows on HGTV and social media posts on Instagram and TikTok, many of these young buyers are also heavy into home rehab.

“Madison Heights is on fire,” says fourth-generation Birmingham Realtor Kathy Broock. She sells “everywhere,” as she puts it, from homes $500,000 and up to those below. She agrees that in the very highest bracket, sales are slower. “But if it’s a good product, it’s going to sell — I just had a $659,000 listing that sold for $20,000 more. If it’s above $500,000 and in good shape, it’s still going to get multiple offers.”

Broock says there’s always a market for the properties she offers, and sometimes renovation is part of the plan. But as the data shows, “good, solid metro Detroit communities are thriving — those that are close to Detroit and are still affordable.” The housing shortage is a nationwide issue, she says, and “people need to put their homes on the market. We need inventory.”

Her forecast for 2023: “If rates stay stable and as long as there aren’t too many layoffs, right now is a great time to sell.”

Clarkston agent Lauren Fortinberry of Coldwell Banker Real Estate agrees and says she’s seeing that “people are off-loading what have been rentals, with budget-friendly list prices — $200s to mid-$300s. If they’re well maintained, they’re flying off the shelf. A lot of people are getting out of the business of being landlords.”

Home seekers are also looking for vastly different styles of homes — and lifestyles, Fortinberry says. First, many people no longer work in offices, so they need an office in their home. “Now there’s a great migration north, to Clarkston, Grand Blanc, and Lake Orion, for places with a pole barn, 4 acres for dogs to run, and access to a lake. People are saying, ‘I can be anywhere I want — I don’t need to drive downtown.’”

Methodology

Below were the steps RE/ Max of Southeastern Michigan took to get the rankings featured in our county charts. Data was pulled using residential sales only, meaning this did not include condo sales data, vacant land, or farmland.

  1. Median sales price was pulled for each ZIP code by month for 2021 and 2022.
  2. Average median sales price was found for 2021 and 2022.
  3. The percentage increase/ decrease from 2021 to 2022 was run for each ZIP.
  4. A rank of “1” was assigned to the ZIP with the highest percentage increase in median sales price from 2021 to 2022; ranking continued downward through the list.
  5. Days on market data was pulled by month for each ZIP code for 2022.
  6. The average number of days on the market for 2022 was run for each ZIP code.
  7. A rank for days on market was assigned, with “1” representing the ZIP code with the lowest average number of days on the market in 2022.
  8. We then added up the rank each ZIP was given for the percentage change in median price with the rank for average number of days on the market and divided that number by 2 for an overall score.

Highlights from the Top 11 List

Below are the areas seeing the biggest booms in home sales, based on days on the market and median sale price. Rankings come from the team at RE/Max of Southeastern Michigan.

Dexter (48130)

No. 1

Dexter’s walkable downtown, where folks can grab a beer at Dexter’s Pub, a sweet at Dexter Bakery, or tools and toys at Hackney Ace Hardware. // Photograph courtesy of the City of Dexter

Dexter, a former farming town in Washtenaw County, tops our list, and Realtor Carmen Knick of the Cadence Real Estate Group says buyers here are part of the overflow from Ann Arbor’s popular west side, along with the towns of Chelsea, Saline, Grass Lake, and Waterloo.

Dexter offers a walkable downtown with low to zero commercial vacancy and lots of retail shops and restaurants. It is also home to a farmers market, the Dexter Cider Mill and Cornman Farms, and Zingerman’s event space. As for arts, they have the Purple Rose Theatre, and Knick says a summer music series is a huge draw every Friday night in the city center. For fresh air and a long walk, the paved Border to Border Trail (which connects cities and parks throughout Washtenaw County) runs through downtown, and two Huron-Clinton Metroparks are within the town’s borders.

She recommends the Dexter Bakery for breakfast and coffee, the Fillmore Bar & Grill or Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales for drinks and dinner, and Aubree’s or Cottage Inn for pizza.

Public School Review, an online resource that ranks and evaluates public schools by statewide averages on several key criteria, such as teacher-student ratios, ranks Dexter Community School District’s seven schools in the state’s top 10 percent.

St. Clair Shores (48081)

No. 2

A marina along the Nautical Mile in St. Clair Shores. This stretch of Jefferson Avenue includes seven marinas (six public, one private) and lake- side dining on Lake St. Clair. // Photograph courtesy of the City of St. Clair Shores

After searching for months for a house in Grosse Pointe Woods to be near his family last year, John Hales — who was moving back to Michigan after living in South Carolina for 15 years — landed on a three-bedroom/one- bath, 1,000-square-foot home in St. Clair Shores, just a few miles away, and he’s glad he did.

It’s just over the border from Grosse Pointe Woods, the price of $190,000 was a deal for his fully updated home, and taxes are lower. “There’s even new sod,” Hales, 60, says of his pristine lawn.

St. Clair Shores boasts the Nautical Mile gateway to Lake St. Clair, with a long stretch of marinas — six public and one private — and many eateries and shops. Hales’ faves for breakfast are Charlie’s on Harper Avenue and The Yolk Brunch House on Greater Mack Avenue. “I love it here — it’s close to downtown Detroit and all the sport- ing events, it’s quiet and easy to get around, and I have really nice neighbors.” Nearby is Lake St. Clair Metropark, which has a large beach on Lake St. Clair, bike-friendly trails, a golf course, and an Olympic-size swimming pool with a waterslide.

The city has three school districts; here’s how they rate on Niche, another rating service: South Lake Schools (B-minus overall, with an A for diversity), Lakeview Public Schools (B overall, B-plus for academics and diversity), and Lake Shore (B-minus overall, B-plus for diversity, and B for teachers).

Madison Heights (48071)

No. 3

Photograph courtesy of the City of Madison Heights

Ashely and Justin Tebedo, both in their early 30s, had been renting in Clawson, but when they started looking for a home of their own, most of the towns they thought about were way outside their price range.

“In our search, Madison Heights was not on our radar,” Ashely says. Then they fell in love with a 1,200-square- foot, three-bedroom/1.5-bath ranch with a three-season room, a patio, and a finished basement listed for $267,000 — in move-in condition and close to both of their jobs.

“We love our neighborhood,” she says. “It has a small-town feel, homey, and a good mix of young families and retirees — the kind of place where you can talk to your neighbors over the fence.” And, she notes, “We have some of the best authentic food here, like Tienda Mexicana on John R.”

The celebrated circa-1955 Green Lantern Pizza is on the same street. She and Justin also love the city’s Red Oaks Nature Center, where they can walk their two dogs and enjoy the 5.2-acre Red Oaks Dog Park. Families will love Red Oaks Water Park, which has a wave pool, waterslides, and a river ride. The city is also known for its fantastic Asian American grocers, including 168 Asian Mart and China Town Market.

Lamphere Public Schools are rated in or near the top third of schools in the Detroit area overall, plus in the areas of teachers and diversity, according to Niche.

Ann Arbor (48103)

No. 5

This 2,388-square-foot home is located in Ann Arbor’s Loch Alpine neighborhood. It has four bedrooms and four bathrooms and sold for $493,000, according to Zillow. // Photograph courtesy of Carmen Knick/Cadence Real Estate Group

Ann Arbor is hot, hot, hot! An article earlier this year on StudyFinds.com pronounced Ann Arbor No. 1 in its “Best Places to Live in America in 2023,” compiling comments from Money.com, among other sites, declaring that the city is more than just a college town — it’s “a mix of rural and urban, sporty and smart, outdoorsy and high-tech.”

Not to mention, it has a fantastic art, music, and food scene. Highlights include the annual art and folk festivals, music venues like The Ark and The Blind Pig, many bookstores and an amazing public library, and a 100-plus-year-old farmers market.

Historically, Ann Arbor is LGBTQ-friendly — Movoto, an online real estate guidance tool, ranked it the second best city in Michigan for LGBTQ families. It scored a 100 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2022 Municipal Equality Index Scorecard.

According to Knick, many sales in Ann Arbor near the University of Michigan — where condos and townhouses average about $377,000 — are from parents buying for their students attending the University of Michigan, and they plan on living there themselves after their kids leave college.

The 32-school Ann Arbor Public School District has one of the highest concentrations of top-ranked public schools in Michigan, according to Public School Review. On U.S. News’ list of the top high schools in Michigan, Skyline High School is No. 10 and Pioneer is No. 22.

Troy (48098)

No. 6 (Five-way tie)

Sand volleyball in Troy’s Boulan Park. The city includes over 100 acres of well-maintained parks and a 127,000-square-foot community center with an aquatic center. // Photograph courtesy of the City of Troy

This affluent and diverse burb was ranked No. 1 on Niche’s 2023 list of the best places to live in the Detroit area and No. 2 on its list of the best places to live in Michigan. The city also has plenty of parks (totaling more than 100 acres), a 127,000-square-foot community center with an aquatic center and licensed preschool program, and the annual Troy Daze weekend festival, plus plenty of restaurants (Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Ocean Prime, Eddie V’s, Fogo de Chão, and others) and one of the best malls in the Midwest (the Somerset Collection, with Nordstrom, Saks, and much more).

“We’re getting a lot of inquiries for new builds and move-in-ready homes,” says Cathy LoChirco, director of operations and client management at TVA Homes, a real estate agency in Birmingham.

While a recent search found one home for $1 million, the median listed home price in this area is $409,900 as of March 21, according to Realtor.com, and a stately 3,700-square-foot new build in the West Troy Meadows community off Livernois Road with four beds/four baths and a three-car garage lists for $969,900.

Troy’s schools, among Michigan’s top 1 percent for diversity according to Public School Review, are a big draw for many families: Troy High School and Athens High School are ranked Nos. 5 and 12 in the state on U.S. News’ list, and Public School Review ranks the school district among the top 5 percent in Michigan overall.

Dearborn (48142)

No. 6 (Five-way tie)

Photograph courtesy of the City of Dearborn

“Architecture from the late 19th- and 20th- century colonial and Tudor revival can be found up and down the streets of these charming neighborhoods,” says Laila Dakroub with RE/Max Team 2000. Ryan Allen, 35, bought a condo here in 2022 after living in Detroit and loving city life for a year. It was a new job with Nokia Corp. that offered college tuition — he enrolled at the University of Michigan Dearborn — that prompted his move to Michigan’s seventh most populated city and into an 11-unit condo association called Garrison Hills off Military Street.

“I didn’t realize how nice a downtown area Dearborn had,” he says. “It’s walkable, cultural, and diverse.” He names several of his favorite spots for coffee: Qahwah House and The Great Commoner on Michigan Avenue, and the Parisian-inspired Gateaux Patisserie on Military Street. For dinner, he recommends Middle Eastern eatery Malek Al-Kabob and the Indian restaurant The Himalayan Flames, both on Michigan Avenue.

As far as museums, Dearborn is best known for being the home of the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, but it also has the Automotive Hall of Fame and the Arab American National Museum. Among Dearborn’s 42 public schools, the top-ranked by Public School Review are Henry Ford Early College, Howard Elementary School, and Haigh Elementary School.

Whitmore Lake (48189)

No. 6 (five-way tie)

Whitmore Lake locals meet at the Farmers Market for fresh produce, crafts, live music, and more, June-October. // Photograph courtesy of the City of Whitmore Lake

Another spillover town from Dexter, this affordable, laid-back rural area with a mix of modest and luxury homes is all about the 667-acre spring-fed lake (voted the best inland lake in Michigan in a poll by MLive), with year-round water sports and fishing and acres of nature trails and woods.

“It’s definitely growing,” Knick says, pointing to a low tax base; public access to the lake, boat launch, and rentals; and fun places to hang out. RE/Max Classic associate Eileen Denhard calls it “a beautiful rural community with a vibrant yet relaxed feel,” adding that there’s interesting shopping in nearby Brighton and world-class health care, dining, and more in close-by Ann Arbor.

For breakfast, try The Peaberry Bean & Beats, “a really cool mom-and-pop spot with open mic both day and night,” Knick says. Denhard likes the Whitmore Lake Tavern for a burger and a brew, and both real estate agents love Captain Joe’s Grill’s huge outdoor patio, featuring an American and Mediterranean menu, live music, and comedy acts.

Public School Review ranks the district in the top 50 percent in the state.

Hottest on the Luxury Market

Realtor Jeff Glover, of Birmingham’s Jeff Glover and Associates, is seeing plenty of movement in the luxury market, but not in the top-tier in communities such as Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, the Grosse Pointes, and Northville.

“There are huge slowdowns and price reductions — 7 to 10 percent— in the above-$1.5 million range, but the more affordable homes below that price point are getting multiple offers.”

Below are the top towns in the luxury market (homes over $500,000 median sale price) in Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties.

West Bloomfield Township (48324)

No. 1 in Oakland County 

Photograph courtesy of the City of West Bloomfield

This exclusive, lake-rich — including Cass, Orchard, Upper Straits, Union, and others — and well-moneyed ZIP code includes Marshbank Park, the Orchard Lake Village community and its private country club, and some of the priciest real estate in the metro area. Portions of 48324 are contained within or border the city limits of Orchard Lake Village, Waterford, Sylvan Lake, Keego Harbor, and Bloomfield Township.

West Bloomfield made Money’s list of “Best Places to Live in America” in 2020, and Niche gives the township an overall grade of A-plus. If you’re a well-known sports figure, entertainer, lake person, or one of the movers and shakers in metro Detroit society, this primo ZIP code is where you want to be. It is also home to the largest inland lake in southeast Michigan, Cass Lake, which is also one of the most frequented, according to Pure Michigan. “The latest and greatest coffee shop is Cafe Bliss on Haggerty Road,” Glover says, “and the best five-star dining is Prime 29 on Orchard Lake and Maple roads.”

Many school districts serve West Bloomfield Township, including West Bloomfield School District, Waterford School District, Farmington Public Schools, Birmingham City School District, Pontiac School District, Walled Lake Consolidated School District, and the Bloomfield Hills School DistrictU.S. News’ list of the top high schools in Michigan ranks International Academy in Bloomfield Hills as No. 3 and Seaholm High School in Birmingham as No. 15.

Canton (48188)

No. 1 in Wayne County (Two-way tie)

Photograph courtesy of the City of Canton

Officially the Charter Township of Canton, this town dates to 1830 and once was known as the sweet corn capital of Michigan. Today, it’s a bustling community that Niche lauds with an A-plus for its “sparse suburban feel”; “restaurants, coffee shops, and parks”; and “highly rated” schools. It’s also close to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Ann Arbor, and Detroit via I-275.

“Canton is booming,” says Knick, who points out the great diversity of housing, with lots of custom-built neighborhoods with natural landscaping. Bart Patterson, associate broker with RE/Max Classic in Canton, notes that Canton’s main corridor along Ford Road features shopping galore, and the Summit on the Park facility includes a farmers market and a recreation facility that hosts soccer tournaments, fitness classes, and events. It is also home to a world-class ice arena, Arctic Edge, where several Olympians have trained, and two notable golf courses — Fellows Creek and Pheasant Run.

The new-urbanist neighborhood of Cherry Hill Village boasts a 400-seat theater and an arts warehouse with art vendors and teaching programs. A smorgasbord of eateries represent Canton’s diverse population, and a favorite hangout is the Euro-style Coffee Haus on Joy Road with specialty coffees and divine edibles. Portions of 48188 are also contained within or border the city limits of Westland and Wayne.

The Plymouth-Canton Community School District is ranked in the top 5 percent of Michigan’s schools by Public School Review. Additionally, Canton High School is No. 25 on U.S News’ list of the best high schools in Michigan.

Grosse Pointe (48230 and 48236)

No. 1 in Wayne County (Two-way tied)/No. 3 in Wayne County 

Photograph courtesy of the City of Grosse Pointe

The elegant five-community Grosse Pointes east of Detroit is where young and old money (e.g., the Fords) live and play, and housing ranges from 100-year-old Tudors to castle-like mansions along the water. One of the most affluent communities in this ZIP code is Grosse Pointe Farms, the second richest city in Michigan, just behind Birmingham, according to Forbes. It spans two ZIP codes: 48230 and 48236.

The Hill on Kercheval Avenue is considered Grosse Pointe Farms’ downtown and runs from Muir to Fisher roads, with regular events, lots of retail, and plenty of tasty food at eateries such as Morning Glory for coffee and farm-to-table Jumps or Luxe for vino and dinner.

Kathleen Best, an agent with RE/Max Eclipse, has sold four high-end multifamily units in Grosse Pointe Park to young professionals and doctors who are residents in nearby hospitals. The draw is multifaceted, she says: “It’s close to water and close to Detroit, where there are tons of new restaurants. Here you get that lake-life luxury, with the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club [Grosse Pointe Shores] and Bayview [Detroit], and you’re also close to Belle Isle.”

In 2022, Grosse Pointe Park was named the No. 1 best place to live in Wayne County by Niche, which cited its highly rated public schools, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks along Lake St. Clair. A popular spot in Grosse Pointe Farms is the Pier Park Pool and Beach, which has a swimming area on Lake St. Clair, a pool, a marina, and pickleball courts. Grosse Pointe also has a lively nightlife with numerous bars that regularly host live music, including the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe and Cabbage Patch Cafe and Catering.

Public School Review ranks the Grosse Pointe Public School System in the top 5 percent in the state. U.S. News ranks Grosse Pointe South High School as the No. 5 high school in Michigan. The 48236 ZIP code encompasses part of Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe, Grosse Pointe Woods, Grosse Pointe Shores, and part of Detroit.

Washington Township (48094 and 48095)

No. 1 and 2 in Macomb County 

Photograph courtesy of Washington Township

Realtor Emer Kenny, of the Emerald Property Team at Keller-Williams Paint Creek & Somerset, says the historic village of Romeo, with its walkable downtown and annual festivals, has drawn homebuyers to this part of Macomb County. “Romeo has made an impact on the whole area — people love the charm, the schools, the cafes.” She says Washington Township also features much larger lots and lower taxes than nearby Rochester and Rochester Hills, and thus newer and larger homes.

“You can even have a pool, with more privacy and space.” Kenny’s sales associate Jackie Bewick says the wide-open area offers residents both suburban and rural living at the same time. “Plus good schools, parks [Stony Creek Metropark], and great restaurants like Bar Verona and the Brown Iron Brewhouse, both on Van Dyke Road.”

Some popular events in Romeo include Terror on Tillson Street — which earned the town the honors of being named one of the best “Halloween towns” in the country (along with Dearborn) by Country Living — and the Romeo Peach Festival on Labor Day weekend. Fall is also a great time to check out the nearby cider mills: Westview Orchards & Winery and Blake’s Orchard & Cider Mill.

Romeo Community School District, which is ranked by Public School Review among the top 30 percent in Michigan, serves Washington and Washington Township.

Hot Neighborhoods in Detroit

Ryan Kain, a Realtor for RE/Max Leading Edge in Dearborn Heights and a specialist in Detroit residential properties, says, “Investor activity has slowed within the city of Detroit — now is a great time for buyers to get out there and negotiate a deal with favorable terms.”

Northwest (48221)

No. 3 on the Hottest ZIP Codes in Detroit 

This picturesque downtown Detroit skyline is just a short drive from Indian Village and Northwest Detroit, both of which have been selling steadily for homeowners. // Photograph from iStock

The most popular ZIP code in Detroit for single-family residential homebuyers is 48221, which comprises Tudor and other architecturally stunning neighborhoods built between the 1920s and ’50s, such as University District, Sherwood Forest, Green Acres, Palmer Woods, and, as Kain notes, the strong-selling Bagley community. “Overall, this market has held fairly steady in terms of number of sales,” Kain says.

Last June, 22-year-old Riley Peters moved from Washington state to a two-story, three- bed/1.5-bath brick house built in 1939 near Mumford High School on Wyoming Avenue. He paid $135,000, besting three other offers on the house, which listed for $120,000, and he is delighted with his new home.

“I love my neighbors — most people on my street have been there a long time.” Peters, who works as a behavioral therapist for autistic children in Livonia, fell in love with Detroit after his sister moved to Ann Arbor, then Royal Oak, five years ago. “After looking at other towns, Detroit was the place I liked and could see myself living,” he says, adding that his sister now lives with him.

Peters bought his home from Kain, who highly recommends the upscale-casual Petty Cash on Livernois as a don’t-miss eatery. Peters has discovered his favorite mom-and-pop burger joint, O’s Burger Bar, on State Fair Avenue, “a create-your-own-burger place.”

This ZIP code puts you close to Palmer Park, which has hiking trails, gardens, a farmers market, and many festivals — plus it’s less than 3 miles from downtown Ferndale.

Indian Village/East Village (48214)

No. 7 on Hottest Luxury ZIP Codes in Wayne County 

A home in Detroit’s East Village, a historic neighborhood with tree-lined streets close to the Detroit riverfront and Belle Isle. // Photograph courtesy of Bjanka Dad

This historic area, which includes Indian Village, East Village, West Village, Islandview, and the Joseph Berry community, features many mansions built between 1885 and the 1920s and architectural styles that range from Tudor revival to Romanesque. The Detroit Riverfront, which runs along East Jefferson Avenue, features a long row of beautiful high-rise apartment buildings, many built 100 years ago and many with views of Windsor, Ontario, and the 982-acre Belle Isle Park.

“There are many larger homes (2,000-plus square feet) that sit within an active historic district that seeks to retain the character of the area — but that can lead to higher rehabilitation costs,” Kain says, adding that “the Parker Durand, a new-build apartment building, was recently completed in Islandview on Kercheval Avenue.”

Residents have their pick of exciting eateries, like the Rattlesnake Club in River Place or Ivy Kitchen + Cocktails on Jefferson, and for coffee and breakfast, try Le Petit Dejeuner, also on Jefferson. As far as nightlife, it is close to Spot Lite and the newly opened Big Pink, which both regularly feature live DJs and dancing.

U.S. News ranks Renaissance High School, Cass Technical High School, and Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine as the top three in the Detroit Public Schools Community District. Popular private schools on the east side are Gesu Catholic, U of D Jesuit High in Detroit, and University Liggett in Grosse Pointe.


This story is part of the May 2023 issue of Hour Detroit. Read more in our Digital Edition.