Gorgeous Waterfront Homes

Howard Van Doren Shaw-designed Glencoe home, built in 1918, set on 2.3 acres with more than 350 feet of private shoreline with a beach and dock; listed by Deutsch and Handler-Dickstein of Coldwell Banker for $8 million. (Photos courtesy of Coldwell Banker Real Estate.)

In the world of desirable real estate, there’s almost nothing that tops a waterfront property. Local brokers Julie Deutsch, Jody Handler-Dickstein and Linda Levin weigh in on why a home on the lake is a great investment.

When it comes to homes in the Chicago area, few amenities match the value added by being on the lakefront.

“Anything on the lake is golden,” says Julie Deutsch, a broker with Coldwell Banker Real Estate in Glencoe. “That is where most people aspire to live.”

Deutsch, along with colleague and fellow broker Jody Handler-Dickstein, has a lot of experience selling homes along the water — the duo call themselves “the luxury listers on the lakefront.”

They are currently selling several homes on the water, including a listing in Highland Park that sits on a bluff and features a wide stairway access down to the lake, along with a “lake room” — a huge, 20-foot-high party room built into the bluff. They’ve also both seen funiculars, or outdoor elevators, on such properties (and had a client install one for about $80,000).

Gorgeous Waterfront Homes: Highland Park

Four-bedroom vintage Mediterranean in Highland Park with panoramic views, in-ground pool, tiered gardens and stone steps to 168 feet of private beach; listed by Deutsch and Handler-Dickstein of Coldwell Banker for $3.75 million.

“There’s always a scarcity of good property available on the lake, especially those with a beautiful landscape and bluffs that stare at the beach,” Handler-Dickstein says. “It’s for an exclusive buyer. There are no neighbors in your backyard.”

Many of the streets that border the lake have, if not perfect lake views, at least lake access. These homes come with keys to a gate that leads to a private beach, Deutsch says.

The closer you get to the lake, the more expensive the homes, she says.

“People will buy the land at a surplus simply because it’s on the lake,” Deutsch adds.

Not only is the water beautiful, but it’s also a focal point of the towns surrounding it, says Linda Levin of Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty in Chicago.

“Everyone focuses on the body of water when they buy in certain neighborhoods,” Levin says. “Water offers beauty, water offers recreation, and it’s peaceful. It’s always prime.”

Even the soothing sounds of the water increase the properties’ value, Handler-Dickstein says.

And the always-in-style nature of waterfront homes means that value holds better than it might for inland homes, Levin says.

“There’s definitely some benefit, investment-wise, because people always want water,” she says. “There’s always some risk involved in buying property, but being on the water reduces some of that risk. There’s longevity in that, and peace of mind.”

Although the actual value of a property depends on the specific market, lot size and condition of the house, “you’ll never over- improve a house on the lake,” Deutsch says. A homeowner can make vast changes and pour money into the property, and it won’t be wasted because lakefront properties hold their value.

That’s probably because there’s no real downside to living on the lake, Deutsch says. Because the homes are built on properties that look down to the water, flooding isn’t an issue and erosion isn’t a concern. Only potential hazards — for example, the risk of having small children near lots of stairs leading down to the water — could be seen as a negative, Levin says.

“In each town bordering Lake Michigan, the lots are not plentiful, so when something does come up and it’s got the views and the beach and the acreage, it could go for a lot of money,” Handler- Dickstein says. “It’s just not something you can find inland.”