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Top 12: 'Diamonds in the rough' in Detroit real estate By Paula Gardner

Here are my picks for Detroit's Top 12 'Diamonds in the Rough'

All are listed as of February 2017. And they're in no particular order.



1. 4388 Courville

This house is a Detroit Land Bank Authority auction property that will reach the market next week. It's on the edge of East English Village, so close to both I-94 and the Grosse Pointes. That's a brick arch over the driveway on the far right, and a big, front porch in this photo. And check out the upstairs windows! It was built in 1927.

2. 5284 Buckingham

Here is another Cotswold-style house on the east side. The listing offers no interior photos, so it could be a really rough diamond. But consider: This house is just shy of 1,100 square feet - yet it has so much more character than the typical ranch that followed it a couple of decades later. 

3. 2690 Hazelwood

I'm a big fan of Detroit's multi-family properties. They're part of the social mobility story of its history, and some - like this one - have a lot of character, like the brick walls and fireplaces. This one near Joy and Linwood on the west side is very rough, but also something that easily plays into a remodeler vision. I also like multifamily properties for owner-occupants. Detroit is still a city of low incomes, and using real estate to built wealth is smart. (Unless you're paying someone in a rent-to-own scenario. I'd never advise that.) 

4. 495 Lakewood

This house was built in 1921 in the Jefferson Chalmers area of Detroit. It's heading to auction on March 1 through the Detroit land bank - and, on the surface, it's in good condition. My favorite part is the wide front porch. I also like the area, which is blocks from the Detroit River. A little closer is the business district, which was recently designated a "National Treasure." It has a number of rehab projects, but also a sense of vitality from the hardware store, coffee shop, boutique, bike shop and more.

5. 16740 Stout

This house is behind the one I grew up in on Kentfield, and I always look at houses in the old neighborhood. The listing photos are from before a tenant move-in, and they show some of the best of Detroit's older homes (the arched entry to living room and wonderful banister) and some of the remodeling opportunity (the pickled wood cabinets and paneling).

6. 19939 Lichfield

This house just outside of Palmer Woods is so close. This isn't a gut and rebuild kind of project, as the price of $109,000 suggests. It's clean with nice floors and "good bones," from what you can see in the photos. And, as the listing notes, it needs some updating. The person choosing to do that will get their hands dirty, but some details - like the old subway tile in the bath - will be delightful to bring back.

7. 9129 Rathbone

This house is another that isn't in terrible condition - and you can see the care the owners took in decorating some rooms. It has some nice updating, some great original details, and some remaining dated laminate - kind of a 'perfect storm' for a buyer who doesn't want to make a remodel a full-time job. The neighborhood is near the new Gordie Howe International Bridge site, and also a little east from Ford's Rouge complex.

8. 100 Holbrooke

Now I'll take another turn to "really rough." Maybe even ungodly rough, given the open air aspects of this house. But look at that staircase! Another image shows a wide open living room, with real pillars. A third shows an unfinished 3rd level. This is in the North End, between the New Center and Boston Edison - so it's one area of the city that should look dramatically different in a decade or two. If you've got the chops for it, this one could be a stunner. It heads to auction Feb. 25.

9. 304 Erskine

Brush Park is hot - at least today, now that Dan Gilbert plans development and redevelopment there, near the new Red Wings arena. The vacant lots illustrate how many once-wonderful homes were lost. This one is owned by the land bank, but listed for a high price due to its location - and opportunity for the buyer to create something special here. It's a 4,000 square foot shell of a grand home. Where does your imagination take you?

10. 10 Atkinson

Boston-Edison district homes still have their historic cachet, despite some falling into severe disrepair. Those are going to be tough. This one interests me just as much. It's a block south of Edison at Woodward, and its potential is great to become a nice home again. The photo of the top floor is what pushed me into feeling affection for this house.

11. 235 Holbrook

There are no additional photos of this house, but I don't need them to know this belongs on the list. It's in the North End, like the earlier house on Holbrook. It's large and distinctive looking. And the price is not even six figures. The only questions remaining for me: How extensive is the disrepair? And did someone put in bad laminate floors over the years?

12. 6351 Evergreen

One building type in the city that constantly gets my attention is the commercial property in a neighborhood. I like to consider what it was like when a property like this could host a business that served the surrounding neighborhood - and I remember a few from my childhood. The apartment above this seems comfortable. But it's the look and feel of the building, along with the challenge of remaking the ground level, that grabs my attention.

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