How to Buy a House in Detroit and Revitalize Motor City

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It wasn’t too long ago that Detroit was home to 1.8 million people, but today it’s home to only about 673,000 residents — just a little more than half of what it was in its heyday. Does that mean the 139-square-mile city is one recession away from becoming a total ghost town? Not at all!

Yes, it’s true that homebuyers may face a few challenges along the way, such as a limited selection of new construction, or few homes with modern updates. However, you can find your dream home in Detroit — even if that means using some elbow grease to revamp a fixer-upper.

We reached out to real estate experts and trusted contractors in Detroit to give potential homebuyers like yourself the scoop about the city’s housing market. In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn about up-and-coming neighborhoods, common problems to avoid, and much more.

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Neighborhoods to consider when buying a house in Detroit

We can’t deny that relocating to a new city is pretty exciting because it gives you a chance to experience new things, meet new people, and try on a fresh start! But if you’re not familiar with an area, how do you know which neighborhoods are the best places to be? Jason Matt, a veteran real estate agent with 17 years experience in the Detroit market, says there are lots of opportunities for first-time homebuyers in Redford, Livonia, and Westland.

“Those are three really popular cities that are still close to downtown but outside of the city,” he explains. “The values are still very attractive for the first-time homebuyer, and the communities, shopping, and schools have a lot to offer.”


If you’re looking for a neighborhood in Detroit with lots to see and do, Redford is a great place to be. The neighborhood consists mostly of single-family homes from 1940 to 1969, which range in value from less than $50,000 to $199,000. However, the median home value was approximately $88,700 as of December 2019, and properties increased in value by 14.7% from 2008 through 2018.

This is a diverse community that welcomes people of all races, ethnic groups, religious backgrounds, and age groups. Many of the residents who call Redford home have been in the neighborhood for decades — some are even third-generation residents! Much of the community is involved with the local government, but residents are just as active in the local church and neighborhood civic groups.

Of course, if you love being outdoors, you’ll have your pick from 15 different parks in Redford. The neighborhood also hosts a variety of events for the community, so your family will always have something to do.

The most common home repair in this area involves crawl spaces and foundations. Many homes experience water leaks because the foundation wasn’t sealed properly from the outside. If your foundation allows moisture to seep in, you run the risk of mold growth. Also, excessive moisture can cause the floor beams to deteriorate, which would cause sagging floors, thus making the home structurally unsound.


Livonia is a wonderful neighborhood if you have a family and want to be around other families — 82% of residents are married and 64% have children. The majority of homes in this are single-family Cape Cods and ranches, but you can also find condos and townhomes for sale.

Buying a home is going to cost a little more in Livonia than Redford. The median cost of a typical single-family home built in 1940 to 1969 is approximately $211,000. Fortunately, the job market in the area has increased, and the average income a homeowner earns is around $77,153 — 14% higher than the national average.

The neighborhood is becoming a popular location for young families because the tax rate is low, they can enjoy the city life without actually living in a city, and there is an abundance of nice homes with few to no repairs needed. However, the weather isn’t always hospitable; you may need to look for roof contractors to repair damage from hail, which can cost between $114 and $1,146, depending on the severity of damage.


Much like Redford and Livonia, the homes in Westland were built between 1940 to 1969; the typical median home costs approximately $145,132. These modest homes are mainly Cape Cods and ranches, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any room to grow! Real estate in Westland has appreciated a whopping 46.62% from 2008 through 2018, which means this is a perfect neighborhood for anyone wanting to take a fixer-upper house and turn it into their dream home.

However, don’t expect the renovation process to go as smoothly as it does on one of HGTV’s home renovation shows. Gianni Roselli, the owner of GSA Gruppo LLC — a construction company ranked in the top 85% of contractors in Michigan on BuildZoom — notes that those shows have “painted an interesting picture for most of us that are in this business because they’re always showing that supplies are ready. They never show the inspections with the inspectors. They never show unforeseen things that pop-up. They never show the items that are on backorder.”

Westland is an ethnically diverse community with plenty of amenities that appeals to everyone. There are several parks in the area to keep your children entertained, an ice arena, golf course, plenty of shopping centers and restaurants to explore, and a variety of entertainment venues to check out.

Common repairs you can expect to encounter with a home in Westland include roof damage, settling foundations, and masonry repairs. Michigan’s harsh elements are known to cause porches to settle, floorboards to warp, and shingles to pull away from the house.

Source: (Sean Benesh/ Unsplash)

Getting around in Detroit

Detroit is the 23rd-largest city in the country, but unlike densely populated cities like Manhattan or Houston, the majority of the city has a suburban level of density. As a result, some neighborhoods cannot provide residents with walkable access to amenities.

Fortunately, Detroit’s transportation network has grown. Not only do residents have access to the Detroit Department of Transportation bus system with 43 routes, but Detroiters also have access to the 3.3-mile streetcar rail line known as QLINE.

If you’re trying to limit your carbon footprint and utilize Detroit’s 104 miles of bike lanes, Detroit has a bike rental program called MoGo. The program has 430 bikes available across 44 stations located all over the city.

Fun fact: If you wanted to go on a day trip and see more of the city, MoGo has a wide variety of “featured rides” you won’t want to miss.

Final thoughts on buying a house in Detroit

Buying a home is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make in your life, so it’s understandable that you’d want to do as much research as possible. Detroit is one of those cities where you can’t go in blind. You’re going to need the help of a seasoned real estate professional who can sift through Detroit’s massive stock of vacant houses to find your dream home; or a home that has the potential to become everything you want.

If you choose to go the fixer-upper route, Mat Vivone from Father Son Construction recommends that buyers “ask neighbors, friends, and coworkers about their experience with a contractor.” He also suggests checking with the local building department to ask if there are known issues with a particular contractor.

Also, Detroit offers a Home Repair Program where homeowners can borrow anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 with 0% interest. The program doesn’t cover cosmetic repairs, only repairs that affect the occupant’s health and safety.

Keep in mind that people are more likely to list their homes between March and May, therefore you’ll have more of a selection. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t find great houses during the winter. In fact, some say that winter is a great time to buy because it is the slow season and everything will be in your favor. The sellers are motivated to sell, and you’ll have your agent’s undivided attention. There will also be fewer offers on houses, which increases the likelihood that your offer would be accepted.

If you’re ready to buy a house in Detroit, you can browse our top-rated Detroit real estate agents, who help buyers purchase almost four times as many homes every year as the average Detroit agent. Whatever you decide, once you start exploring Detroit and looking at houses, you’ll see why the city is gaining popularity once again!

Header Image Source: (Andrey Bayda/ Shutterstock)