After earning a degree in urban studies from Cornell University, Austin Black II returned to Detroit in 2004 to work for a suburban-based developer. By 2010, he had established City Living Detroit as a real estate brokerage. We caught up with him to talk about the challenges of living in the city and which neighborhoods might be the next hidden gems.
Hour Detroit: When did you start City Living Detroit?
Austin Black II: I was working for the developer full time and on the side was doing [City Living] as a nonprofit. The real estate market started declining [especially the] super high-end. Shortly before getting laid off, I was approached about doing sales. [After] I thought I may as well try it. … Initially, all the money City Living Detroit was receiving was mostly from developers [and] banks … in the form of sponsorships. For example, Peter Cummings and Ram Real Estate [sponsored] our website. In 2007 the market started slowing down and [City Living] pretty much went dormant. I started working for Max Broock in Birmingham. Then in 2010, I decided to go off on my own … and revived City Living Detroit as a real estate brokerage.
The market is obviously better now.
[I’ve] been doing a lot in historic neighborhoods for the last four to five years. Indian Village/West Village. Boston-Edison. The Palmer/Sherwood/University District.
West Village has gone nuts recently. Corktown, too.
Grandmont/Rosedale, too. There’s a lot going on [business wise] on Grand River. Pages Bookstore, Detroit Vegan Soul. … Hubbard Farms is also one, but there’s not a lot of listings. You don’t see turnover of property much. The number of people who want to be in those neighborhoods far exceeds the number of available properties. Recently, for someone looking for single-family homes in the $150,000 -$725,000 range, there were only 50 available [properties] in the entire city!
Any other areas starting to trend?
One area that has a lot of potential is the Bagley neighborhood just west of University [District] and Sherwood [Forest]. You have the city focusing on Livernois to redevelop that commercial district, and Rehabbed and Ready [a program that includes the Detroit Land Bank Authority, Quicken Loans, and The Home Depot]. [Plus] those homes are much more manageable.