The Great Lakes

Eight states and two nations border these vast inland seas. Bustling cities stand along their shores. But they also boast waterfront serenity and natural beauty.

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Drawbacks:

Winters are bitter, and storms can be ferocious, especially in fall and winter. Isolation discourages some would-be residents from considering Michigan's Upper Peninsula, northern Wisconsin, Lake Superior's North Shore, and many Canadian lakeshore areas.

A few industry-based cities have been experiencing economic stress. Many local economies slow dramatically during colder months.

Housing Options:

In and near the cities, you'll find everything from high-rise condos to modest single-family homes. Some commercial waterfront buildings are being converted to loft-style housing. Areas within commuting distance of cities have started to acquire very upscale homes, though there's still a tendency to retain a rustic feel. Not many high-rises exist outside the cities. In small towns and rural areas, housing consists of rustic cabins, vacation homes, and unassuming lakefront single-family houses. Much land is available to build what you want.

 What It Costs: 

The few available historic homes on Kelleys Island off Sandusky, Ohio, sell for $200,000 (though work will be needed) to $1 million. Two-bedroom waterfront condominiums in Toronto run $200 Canadian ($150 United States) per square foot. Lakefront condos in Erie, Pennsylvania, start at $325,000. Waterfront homes in St. Joseph, Michigan (with views across Lake Michigan to Chicago), go for $350,000 and up.

   Your Next-door Neighbors:  

City-dwellers, including white- and blue-collar, retreat to second homes on or near the water. Almost everyone seems to be an avid hunter, fisherman, or both. Not all retirees abandon their snow shovels to flee south. Tourists flock here in summer. Especially in tourist areas, people tend to multitask as, for example, a combination hunting guide/antiques shop owner/volunteer firefighter/county commissioner/bartender.

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