Metro Detroit’s young Jews are on the move. Access to an increasingly vibrant Downtown Detroit, the search for good schools and proximity to a Jewish community of their peers are among the factors driving their migrations. But, unlike in past moves, the push has not necessarily been northwest.
Melanie Bishop, a realtor associate with Max Broock Realtors in Bloomfield Hills, says many young families are moving for the school districts, with a strong interest in West Bloomfield neighborhoods that funnel into Bloomfield Hills schools. Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham schools are highly desirable, she explains.
“When the market started to come back in 2011 and people were on the move again, and young families were looking for homes, the school district was definitely the common denominator,” she says.
A cohort of young people who may have moved to the western end of West Bloomfield and Commerce for well-priced newer homes in past years has been making a move for Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham schools, she explains. “It’s a total reversal of history; and the eastern end of West Bloomfield that’s in Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham schools is so strong.”
“With my younger one, when she was in preschool, it was very evident her classmates would be going to
Lone Pine Elementary.”
— Lana Perica
Depending on their age and where they work, there’s also a movement to Downtown and Royal Oak, she explains. “The whole Woodward corridor is exploding, anything from Ferndale to Bloomfield Hills.” Singles and young couples without kids are exploring the more urban lifestyles that areas like Royal Oak, Berkley and Ferndale afford, she adds.
Momentum was strong in 2017, she says. “Our market [in 2017] was way better than last year. We had really light inventory, so it propelled a lot of appreciation because of supply and demand.” It’s made for a very good year for sellers, she says, with many buyers coming in looking for three to four bedrooms.
The Jewish community across West Bloomfield remains strong, say real estate agents. Whether they’re moving back to the area from cities like Chicago and New York as they start their families, coming from Royal Oak as they start to settle down or moving from another nearby area, young families are especially flocking to the subdivisions at the Lone Pine, Orchard Lake and Middlebelt area, she says.
Though they already live in a house they love — 3,000 square feet on a corner lot with access to Walled Lake’s highly rated Oakley Park Elementary — Ben and Rebecca Bershad say they are far from the first of their friends to consider moving their family to the Lone Pine area. That would mean their kids — 5-year-old twins Adam and Livia — would attend Bloomfield Hills’ Lone Pine Elementary School when they start kindergarten in the fall.
“You have to take in all the considerations,” Rebecca says of their housing hunt, which they began in earnest in the past few months.
Rebecca, 38, who grew up in Florida and then Ann Arbor, and Ben, 35, who is from West Bloomfield, moved to their current residence, a four-bedroom with a three-car garage at Haggerty and Pontiac Trail, from an apartment in Farmington Hills in 2009. They bought at the bottom of the market in a family-friendly area with well-manicured lawns and sidewalks.
As the years went by and families — including theirs — grew, people they knew started moving toward Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham schools, they say. Ben’s sister and her family were among them. And so, within the last year, the Bershads started looking online.
“All of a sudden, it was in the picture,” Rebecca says. They’re looking for a house that would let their twins go to school with their cousins at Lone Pine Elementary School, a school they see as diverse with lots of Jewish peers.
The houses they’re seeing are older, built between the 1960s and 1980s, compared with their current house, which was built in 2001. A new house in that area likely will require some work before they could move in, Ben says. It’s a closer drive to Temple Shir Shalom, the synagogue his parents attend, and only a bit farther from Temple Israel, where the twins go to preschool.
A move will mean changing where he shops — everything’s a quick hop on M-5 for now — but he says he’s excited about the area they’re hoping to move to, where they know a lot of people and see a lot of neighborhoods turning over with young Jewish families.
“When we hear about the families that are looking in the same neighborhoods and competing for the same houses, a lot of them are Jewish, and we either know them or we know people who know them,” he says.
In The Zone
Rabbi Brent Gutmann, 34, and his wife Jill, 33, moved from Auckland, New Zealand, to the eastern West Bloomfield area less than two years ago. The pair, who spent their childhoods in Ohio, and their three girls, Daria, 6, Tzipi, 3, and Lyla, 1, live within walking distance from Lone Pine Elementary School. There are Jewish families on their street as well as across Metro Detroit, which is a stark difference for them from New Zealand, where the Jewish population was a small fraction of a percent, they say.
Their house is close to his work at Temple Kol Ami and accessible to nearby bike trails. Coming from an urban environment, they like to bike everywhere they can, Jill says. “It’s a great place to live.”
For now, their oldest daughter attends Hillel, where many of her peers seem to come from their area, but others trek in from Windsor, Northville, Ann Arbor and beyond. “Just because you send your kid to Hillel doesn’t mean you’re not going to use the schools eventually,” she says.
They celebrate Jewish holidays with their neighbors and enjoy the strong sense of community. “People who move into our neighborhood never leave our neighborhood,” she says. “They stay forever, and their kids want to move back.”
Closer To The City
Meanwhile, Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham, Royal Oak, Ferndale, Berkley and Huntington Woods are also among the areas drawing young people today, says Linda Singer, a real estate agent for Max Broock in West Bloomfield. Commerce is still seeing some activity as well, she adds. “I think people are heading east to be close to Royal Oak, and, now more so, an easy drive to Downtown.
“It’s a whole new scene. I think they want to live in urban places and go where the new restaurants are and be able to walk places,” she says. Parks and restaurants are among the highlights. “When I was young, everybody lived in Southfield; then everybody started moving.”
That said, some areas, like Rolling Oaks, a Farmington Hills neighborhood that’s home to Farmington Public Schools’ Forest Elementary, have been popular for several decades. Children who grew up there, by way of example, return to live near their parents, she says. “It’s a very hamishe area.” The subdivision is connected by about five miles of walking paths with six different jungle gym areas. “People don’t move from there; they just reinvest money into their properties.”
Nanci Rands, associate broker at Hall & Hunter Realtors in Birmingham, notes Huntington Woods as an area with a strong fan base. “There are people who live in Huntington Woods who grew up there and whose grandparents lived there as well. It continues to be a much-in-demand area,” she says. It’s part of an interest in walkable locations, from Birmingham to Royal Oak, Ferndale and Berkley.
A decade ago, Downtown and Midtown Detroit weren’t really options. Today, singles and newly married couples especially are looking at real estate there, she adds. The opening of Bloomfield Hills High School, she says, is drawing more people to Bloomfield and Bloomfield Township properties.
White Lake Living
Steve Betel, 29, and his wife, Carly, 31, recently made the move from Ferndale to White Lake, where they had a new house built. Steve, who is originally from the Farmington Hills/West Bloomfield area, and Carly, who hails from Royal Oak, headed to White Lake in October 2016, drawn in large part by the good education system in Walled Lake schools.
Steve had lived in Ferndale since 2012, moving back from Florida to be close to family. He says he liked that the area was walkable and active without being too fast-paced.
“There’s a lot going on [in Ferndale],” he says. But with an eye toward building a family, they needed more space, and that’s when they sought out their new home, a three-bedroom, 2.5- bathroom house with a three-car garage.
“I love that we’re out by the lakes and by the water. That’s something my wife and I really appreciate,” he says. “It’s a new house that had what we wanted; it was within our price range and in the school district we wanted. That was basically our decision.”
Though he hasn’t seen much organized Jewish life in the immediate vicinity, he says, they’re close enough to access all kinds of Jewish activities in the greater West Bloomfield area and plan to join a synagogue when they have kids.
Their friends, mostly couples without kids, largely still reside in the Royal Oak/Ferndale area. It was a much closer ride Downtown to Quicken Loans, where Steve works as a mortgage banker. “I have a nice little hike Downtown,” he says. “I was 15 minutes, now I’m 50.” Carly, a psychologist, travels to offices in Rochester or Farmington for work.
They originally considered moving Downtown, but wanted to live somewhere they could put their property taxes to work when it came to sending their kids to school, he says. And they expect to be in the area longterm.
Meanwhile, their area continues to grow.
“If you go north of us, there are probably 25 new-build subdivisions around. There’s a lot south of us in Commerce,” he explains. “I can get anything I could ever think of within 15 minutes.”
Lana Perica, 38, grew up in North Oak Park and attended Berkley High School. She and her husband, Steve, 41, who’s from Windsor, Ontario, moved to Halsted and 14 Mile in 2009. Then, as her daughters, now ages 5 and 9, attended preschool at Temple Israel, she started getting the sense that people were headed east. “With my younger one, when she was in preschool, it was very evident that her classmates would be going to Lone Pine Elementary,” she says.
They started looking at houses last summer and, in August 2017, traded their 2002 home, of which they were the second owners, for an older house they spent three months remodeling. They moved in November. And, while academically she sees both schools as about the same, she’s pleased with their new area.
“It’s just that tight-knit community that’s really appealing to families,” she says. Her fourth-grader and kindergartener integrated easily into their new neighborhood, with people coming out of the woodwork to set up play dates, she says.
Meanwhile, they’re still close enough to where they lived before to keep in touch, she says. “We still have lots of friends there — we have old neighbors coming over for play dates.”
In many cases, young families have their eyes peeled for homes in attractive areas like theirs — some of which come to market when a member of the older generation decides to sell.
Pam Stoler, associate broker with Hall & Hunter Realtors in Birmingham, says those who do choose to downsize, moving out of homes where they’ve already raised their children, are heading for walkable areas or places on the water where their children and grandchildren will visit.
“Young families are focusing on schools,” she says. “People who’ve already raised their kids are focusing on a lifestyle.”
Rebecca Bershad agrees. “The people who are selling their homes are the people of our parents’ generation,” she notes. “They don’t have to worry about the school district.”
Karen Schwartz Contributing Writer