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A New Home on a Busy Road?

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BIG HOUSES ON TELEGRAPH: For some, busy road is the place to build

Location is counter to Western thinking

November 12, 2003

BY MARSHA LOW

FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

As you're whizzing south on Telegraph Road at a quick clip of 45 m.p.h., a massive structure catches your eye.

A closer look reveals a big, beautiful new home looming just yards awayfrom the road, and you wonder, who does that? Who builds a mini-mansion on a highway that carries an average of 72,000 metro Detroit motorists daily?

Well, three families are doing it in Bloomfield Township just south of Square Lake. Another family is doing it in Dearborn at Cherry Hill.

"Everyone is talking about these homes because everyone has difficulty understanding it," said Aude Sisk of Cranbrook Realtors in West Bloomfield. "What I keep hearing people say is: Why? Why? Why?"

The answer: culture.

Vergine Kanouno and Angela Bercea, raised in Lebanon and Romania, respectively, recognize that Western thinking has the wealthy building their mansions in secluded, heavily wooded and often gated lots.

But in their native lands, living on a main street is desirable and a sign of social prominence.

"Anywhere in the Middle East, a house near a shopping center or near commercial buildings, they are worth more. It is considered a more prestigious place to live," said Kanouno.

When Kanouno was ready to leave a modest home in Southfield, she looked in the outlying regions of Oakland County where vacant land is abundant.

But she fell in love with a lot in Bloomfield Township on Telegraph just south of Square Lake.

She built a 5,000-square-foot colonial complete with soaring ceilings, marble floors, granite countertops and modern decor. She has four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, three fireplaces and a three-car garage.

Less than a mile away are grocery stores, home improvement warehouses and the Bloomfield Hills Costco.

Most would assume that with the hustle and bustle swirling around the intersection, the constant hum of traffic would be maddening. But step inside Kanouno's home, and the stillness is unsettling. It's the miracle, she said, of the best insulation and windows money can buy.

"We always sleep like babies," said Kanouno, who moved into the house in 2001. "This is my dream house. I love the location. I feel very private here."

Township appraisers value Kanouno's home and land at $430,085. But Kanouno believes differently. In late October, she decided to test the waters, placing her home on the market with an asking price of $1.2 million. A recent open house showed promise, drawing a half-dozen interested buyers, Kanouno's real estate agent said.

Kanouno has not received an offer yet, but might get what she's asking because real estate agents say that for every home, there is a buyer.

"The Telegraph home won't bring the same value as the same home on an interior lot," said Dan Elsea, president of brokerage services for Real Estate One. "But this is still a large home in Bloomfield Township, and there will always be another buyer out there like them."

Parking lot is scenery

In Dearborn, the Bercea family takes pride in the fact that people will see and know their home.

"In Romania, it is a prestigious thing to live in the center of a city," Bercea said. "Some people think what we are doing is odd, others think it's great. I think you do what pleases you and nothing else matters."

Her 3,500-square-foot colonial will have five bedrooms, two and a half baths, a two-car garage, living room, great room, granite, marble and hardwood floors.

But it also will have a kitchen window that looks out onto a parking lot -- illuminated by bright lights at night. The parking accommodates a strip mall across the street that draws a constant stream of visitors for pizza and ribs, a haircut or a piece of jewelry. There is is a gas station nearby. Peek out the front door, and there's a traffic light.

Some say the location is undesirable. Bercea calls it home.

The family considered a rural lot in Milford. But their teenage children found the idea of country-living creepy, she said. Location was also a consideration: Bercea and her husband work in Dearborn, their oldest daughter attends school at Wayne State University. They decided to stay in Dearborn.

But in a nearly 75-year-old city, land is scarce. Here, people buy old homes, tear them down and replace them with big-foot homes. And sometimes, they buy on a stretch of highway that carries an average of 58,000 motorists daily.

"In this situation, we've got a castle of a house next to a gas station, a strip mall and a parking lot," said Sam Baydoun, president of the Dearborn Area Board of Realtors. "The house doesn't belong there."

Others say it's a matter of opinion.

"Back home in the Middle East, we say if you live on a major street, it's better because the house will be worth more, and you will have more prestige," said Art Poota, of Real Estate One in West Bloomfield. "People who build on main streets want to be famous and talked about. Here in America, it is different. Everyone has their own opinion."

Bercea's home will be completed in the spring. During the early stages of construction, interested buyers offered $300,000 for the property. But Bercea is not ready to sell, and when she does, it will be for no less than $1.5 million.

Until then, she and Kanouno say the attention is welcome.

In fact, they'd be offended if you didn't notice.

Contact MARSHA LOW at 248-351-3299 or [email protected]

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Less than a mile away are grocery stores, home improvement warehouses and the Bloomfield Hills Costco.

I would hardly consider "less than a mile" to be "close" to commercial space. "Close" (ie., walking distance) is usually considered to be up to 1/4 mile.

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I would hardly consider "less than a mile" to be "close" to commercial space. "Close" (ie., walking distance) is usually considered to be up to 1/4 mile.
It's not that close, but it's closer to commercial space than most people build...especially in Detroit.

With the huge influx of people from the Middle East into the region, I'm sure there will be more houses built on busy roads in the metro. I thought this article was interesting because it pointed out the differences between cultures. I had no idea that building a large home on a busy street is a sign of social prominence....I guess you learn something new everyday :).

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