The Sure Thing

So, I was at Thistledown racetrack with a few friends last year, and we were sitting outside on the benches just off the rail. As the horses rounded the final turn and headed for the wire, the crowd started to pour out with enthusiasm. As the first horse crossed the line, screams of joy were peppered within the jeers of overwhelming disappointment from the masses, as most of us looked down at our now worthless wagering tickets. Curiously, one such victorious yell came from the person sitting immediately to my right. “Sweet! I had the #10 horse!”

My confusion turned to a little resentment, as this declaration came from my friend, a friend with whom I had just spent the previous 10 minutes crunching the numbers in the racing form, postulating every possible winning combination for the race. Voicing my concern, I asked, “We talked about the #3 horse, the #6 horse, and even the #2 and #7, how did you come up with the #10? And more importantly, don’t you think you could have at least mentioned it to me?” While he still swears that he gave me the tip on the #10, I’m positive that I would have taken advantage of the information if I would have had the chance. Regardless of how it happened, once again, I’m a day late and dollar short.

The reason I bring up this story is how often we have said to ourselves, “If only I'd known”, or “Why can’t I catch a break?” How many times have you heard stories about someone making a fortune on a long-shot bet or a hot stock tip and wished that something like that would happen to you? Well today is your lucky day. Because I’ve got the mother of all hot tips and it’s practically fool proof. So without any further ado, here’s what you need to know: Invest in Lakewood.

I’m here to say I have seen the future and it is incredibly bright. And I’m not even sure that those who already have a share of this winning ticket realize it.

In my humble opinion, Lakewood is as close to a “sure thing” as you can get right now. Yes, there are still hurdles that need to be overcome. The city’s budget may be a concern, and some service issues need to be ironed out, but on the whole I think we’re poised to make great gains in the near future.

While everyone is in great despair over the housing market, I see something positive. Lakewood’s greatest strength has always been its consistency. When the housing market was soaring out of control, Lakewood was seen as lagging behind, but mark my words, no one will mock us for lagging behind the national trend now.

You see, owning a home in Lakewood is like owning blue chip stocks. We might miss out on a boom here or there, but on the whole it’s our ability to sustain value through the bust years that makes us the better choice. Owning a house in a new, upstart community is fine as long as demand outpaces supply, but as soon as it’s cheaper to build a new house rather than buying an identical one three doors down, your property won't be worth the pasture it’s built on. Living in Lakewood pays dividends that, over time, will far outpace any perceived short-term gains.

As gas prices continue to increase, I’m guessing more and more people will begin to question the benefits of living an extra 20 or 30 miles outside the city. Living in a suburb where you’re required to drive to the store, or the bank, or anywhere for that matter, can double or even triple the amount you pay in fuel. Filling up my car just once more a month equates to an additional expense of nearly $500 per year. And that’s if gas prices stay where they are.

Owning lots of land is nice, but what happens when a community has to repave roads and repair aging infrastructure with sometimes half as many tax payers per acre of responsibility? It costs the same to plow a mile of snow covered road in Lakewood as it does in Avon, but the difference is that having twice (and sometimes three times) as many people living upon that mile helps diffuse the overall cost per person.

Lakewood living is essentially cheaper on almost all fronts, a trait that in a lagging market will be essential to sustaining a strong retail base, which helps anchor a community’s economy, which in turn promotes continued growth and prosperity. It’s a cycle that has never been fashionable yet has always been reliable.

Eventually, and I’m guessing it will be very soon, people will begin to adjust their housing and community priorities. The desire for sprawling land and lavish homes with vaulted ceilings and winding drives will eventually give in to the need for more easily sustainable, yet similarly dignified responsibilities. And once the tide begins to shift back to the inner-ring suburbs, just where do you think the hot properties will be?

I went to the meetings that showed the Detroit Streetscape study; I saw new roads, new schools, and new housing. I see a healthy balance of future potential and current prosperity. I see a city that already has what most newer communities will soon desire--a solid foundation.

Getting back to the track analogy, I have a friend who’s been good council at the window over the years. He often tells me that while it’s fun to bet on the long shots, most of the time you’re better off consistently pocketing the small returns, or as he calls it, “betting on the grass to grow.”

For now, some people will continue to flock to the new, the trendy, and the randomly popular. But as for me, I’m sitting back, kicking my feet up on my front porch, waving to my neighbors, all the while knowing that my horse is about to come in. And when it does, don’t say you never knew.

Read More on Perspective
Volume 4, Issue 1, Posted 4:53 PM, 12.27.2007