Trio of Southwestern Michigan lakefront homes fetch big money – Crain's Chicago Business

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Dennis Rodkin is a senior reporter covering residential real estate for Crain’s Chicago Business. He joined Crain’s in 2014 and has been covering real estate in Chicago since 1991.
There’s been a flurry of multimillion-dollar sales of lakefront homes in southwest Michigan in recent months, including a New Buffalo home that went for a little over $8.52 million, the record price for a home sale in that hub of second homes.
In addition, since that record-setter sold in April, two homes have each sold for $6.25 million, one in New Buffalo and the other in Lakeside. All three surpassed the old record of $6 million, the price paid for a house in Union Pier in May 2019.
New Buffalo, the first town north of the Indiana-Michigan state line, is 65 miles from downtown Chicago, with Union Pier, Lakeside and Sawyer each a little farther on. 
Popular with Chicagoans for decades, these towns and their shoreline neighbors in Indiana became more popular than ever during the work-from-home boom during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the traditional appeal of a second home morphed into “second first homes” where people could spend more than just weekends.
In the case of the record-setting New Buffalo home and the Lakeside home, both buyers and sellers were from the Chicago area or former Chicagoans. In the case of the second New Buffalo home, the sellers were former Chicagoans, but the buyers are not yet identified in public records.
The record-setting property that sold in April for more than $8.52 million, pictured above, is on Marquette Drive, a slender piece of land between Lake Michigan and the Galien River a few blocks from New Buffalo’s downtown blocks.
Berrien County records show that a trust in the name of Susan Lenny bought the Marquette Drive site, a little over half an acre, in 2017 when it held a four-bedroom house built in the 1940s. Susan Lenny’s husband is Rick Lenny, non-executive chairman of Chicago-based food company Conagra and former CEO of Pennsylvania chocolate maker Hershey.
The couple built a new, contemporary-style house clad in contrasting light limestone and dark wood, with broad, flat roof overhangs. Details on the home’s size and interior finishes are not available, as the property didn’t get publicly listed before selling. Crain’s could not reach the Lennys. Liz Roch, the @properties agent who, according to agents from other brokerages, represented both buyer and seller, did not respond to a request for comment.
The buyer, according to Berrien County tax records, is a land trust based in Winnetka at the home address of Marc Walfish, managing director of Chicago-based Merit Capital Partners. Walfish did not respond to a request for comment.
The other New Buffalo house, northeast on Marquette Drive and pictured above, sold in June for $6.25 million. This one, also on a bit more than half an acre, is a six-bedroom, 5,700-square-foot house built in 2007 in a traditional New England style, with a steep wood-shingled roof over a two-story facade facing the street with more than a dozen windows bracketed with shutters.
On the lakeside, seen in the image at the top of this story, the house has two stories of covered porches, a swimming pool and a pair of staircases cascading down the sandy bluff.
“It’s the kind of house you dream of getting in Harbor Country,” said Jan Smith, the @properties Christie’s International Realty agent who represented the sellers. She declined to comment on the sellers or the buyers. Smith put the house on the market March 10 at $6.25 million and had it under contract two days later. The sale closed June 9.
The sellers are David and Helen Milgrom, according to Berrien County records. Longtime residents of Lincoln Park, they now live in Florida. David Milgrom, CEO of Bernard Cap, a Florida manufacturer of headwear for military forces and other uniform wearers, did not respond to a request for comment.
Five miles north of the two homes on Marquette Drive, a house on Pier Street in Lakeside, shown above, sold in May for $6.25 million. Built in 2004 on 2.5 lakefront acres, the house has six bedrooms and is 6,000 square feet. Its large lake-facing deck has an outdoor kitchen, including a wood-fired pizza oven, and a hot tub. There’s also a tennis court on the property.
The house went on the market March 22 at $6.5 million, went under contract in late April and sold May 22, according to real estate sites. The seller, Dana Peres Edelson, is a University of Chicago physician, according to Berrien County records.
The buyer is a Bascharon family trust based in Naperville. James Bascharon is a veterinarian and CEO of pet products firm Vetnique, which received a capital investment from a San Francisco private-equity company in April. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Other homeowners in the string of lakefront towns may have invested more in their homes or may have sold privately at higher prices without any trace in real estate records.
“There’s a lack of inventory of these special properties — they go beyond just regular lakefront homes — but buyers are plentiful,” said George Schultz, managing broker of @properties Christie’s International Realty for New Buffalo and St. Joseph, Mich. 
Schultz was not involved in any of the transactions and declined to comment on them individually. “It’s a very strong market,” he said, “and they’re paying cash.”
Dennis Rodkin is a senior reporter covering residential real estate for Crain’s Chicago Business. He joined Crain’s in 2014 and has been covering real estate in Chicago since 1991.
Gaffigan, a familiar entertainer with numerous TV shows, movies and albums in his portfolio, moved away in 1977, but the two-story addition his parents made remains as the family’s imprint on the 19th-century settlers’ house.
Real estate industry sources say demand largely remains intact this summer, although the pool of buyers is somewhat shallower.
They’re the latest signs that residential construction is on track to help fuel economic growth.
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