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Rural Michigan Real Estate

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Rural Michigan makes for an interesting real estate market. Its hallmarks include sprawling, non-urban land even within metropolitan areas, and for many Michiganders, it’s possible to purchase a rural home with USDA assistance in the form of a no money down mortgage and still be within a 20 minute drive of a city! USDA loans are meant to stimulate rural development and economic sustainability while preserving the rural lifestyle and character. It’s definition of a qualified area usually means a community or property is outside a metropolitan area and in a town with a population less than 20,000. As you can see from the map, the majority of landmass in Michigan would meet USDA location qualifications. The second level of qualification is income. Criteria can range from approximately $75,000 to $124,000  depending on family size and which county you’re in. At Guild Mortgage Michigan, we specialize in helping rural home purchasers qualify for this type of mortgage and know many expert real estate agents who also specialize in rural real estate.

The Makeup of Michigan

Almost 10 million people live in Michigan, and 82.5% of them live in urban, or “central city,” and suburban, “collar” counties. The urbanized portions of these counties occupy about 10% of Michigan’s land. Even some of the densest, most populous counties in the state contain substantial portions of undeveloped land. Michigan’s suburban counties that surround central city counties are the fastest growing in the state, while city populations continue to decline.  Most of Michigan’s urbanized counties still have a rural character and feel. Overall, Michigan contains 37.4 million acres of land. The state’s metropolitan areas include 10.4 million acres, or 27.8% of the total land area. Within these metropolitan areas, almost two-thirds of the land is not urban.

So What Makes Michigan Rural Real Estate “Feel Rural”?

Much of what preserves the rural character of Michigan communities lies in urban planning philosophies adopted by numerous Michigan townships. The following description of “Rural Character” from a planning perspective was adapted in part from the “Watershed Resource Papers” by Langworthy, Strader, LeBlanc, & Associates, Inc.:

Michigan’s diverse landscapes, including its shorelines, riparian areas, open fields, forests, and farmlands, draw residents to a variety of rural areas throughout the state. Rural character is many times a perception unique to the individual. One person may interpret rural character as having a low density of development; another may only recognize it where there is a complete absence of man-made features, such as signs and buildings.

Ultimately, it is the community’s own definition of rural character that is the single most important part of its preservation. Definitions of rural character may include the following elements:

  • tree-lined streets
  • farmlands
  • woodlands
  • clean air and water
  • undeveloped open space
  • natural stream banks
  • natural lake shorelines
  • outdoor recreation opportunities
  • small villages and communities


Characteristics of rural homes may include zoning elements such as:

  • Increased lot width and/or area.
  • Greater setback requirements.
  • Provisions minimizing urban vegetation (manicured lawns, flower gardens, etc.) and preservation of larger trees in areas visible from the roadway.
  • Minimum lot sizes

Would you like room to roam in your next home? Talk to us for a referral to a Rural Michigan Real Estate Agent, and let us help you determine your eligibility for a USDA mortgage.



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