top of page

Surviving Winters In Michigan

Surviving Winters In Michigan - Michigan winters, are they long? What months does it start and when does it stop? Is it really cold? Will I be miserable? Are snow angels harder to perfect than sources say? Is the snow actually white? All these crucial questions are going to be broken down for you.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people all over the world about Michigan winters, because let’s face it, when you Google the pros and cons of living in Michigan, horrendous winters tends to be right on the top of the list, not so much on the green side, but the red side. So I found it necessary to break these questions, misconceptions, myths and truths down some more, being as I have been in this fine state since I was born and have traveled all over the mitten during each of the four distinct seasons. Before I tackle some of the questions I mentioned, I want to first break down how these winter months in Michigan affect the housing market being as I’m a Michigan realtor and would be happy to be your go-to resource in this fine state, my contact information along with several resources are buried in the description for your convenience.

How does winter affect the housing market? How does snow affect your home search? How does it affect overall home maintenance? These are a few questions that a lot of people don’t think about when making the move to Michigan, and the reality is, you should because if you're coming from somewhere that doesn’t exactly have this type of climate, there is a little learning curve when it comes to what to do and what not to do.

On the plus side, the housing inventory that is available is typically homes that didn’t sell during the peak times or was just listed by a seller that has to sell, because as a real estate professional myself, I advise my clients to list during the spring and summer when competition is highest to get their home the most exposure possible, but the advantage here is having highly motivated sellers who want out now so it prompts you to have a possible deal depending on how bad they need or want to get out from under that home. How does it affect your home search?

Well, there’s a plus side to it aside from having to drive around in the pesky snow and that’s being able to tell if the home you’re interested in is in good enough condition to handle the elements. For example, does the roof have snow on it or is it completely gone? That could mean the roof is not insulated well, so the heat seeped through the roof and melted the snow, you’d want to see some snow sitting on there. Or maybe the house is overly cold despite the furnace being on, which could mean bad insulation throughout, drafty windows, or maybe it’s on a crawlspace and it’s not insulated or encapsulated properly. The temperatures could warm up a little bit and you could see the gutter functionality or if the snow is seeping into the foundation and leaving walls wet. There’s more opportunity to see these red flags with snow on the ground instead of guessing when there isn’t. On the other hand of course, with a good snow you may not get a good sense of how old the roof is, the landscape quality, curb appeal, etc. In terms of home maintenance, I will link a video in the description that I did awhile back touching on that topic in depth so you know how to prepare your home for the winter, so be sure to add that to your video queue.

So are the winters long and how much snow do you get? Probably the most common question I get from people who haven’t had the chance to experience Michigan winters. My answer always comes down to Groundhog Day on February 2nd, and this legend is simple, if the groundhog sees its shadow and runs back to the hole it came from, we will have snowy weather through the month of march, if the groundhog doesn’t see its shadow, we will have an early spring. I’m kidding of course, but you wouldn’t believe how many people actually follow that religiously, but it’s just about as accurate as a weatherman, so why not.

The answer is it really depends on where you are in Michigan. After looking into more research about the annual accumulations throughout Michigan over the past several years, the trend was fairly similar in terms of what areas were hit the hardest and the areas that weren’t. This graphic shows the national snowfall analysis in 2022, where the light and darker oranges range from 12-36 inches, the lighter red and darker red is 48 to 120 inches and the select few areas that have this teal purplish color is from 120 to 360 inches. A lot of sources will tell you that Michigan winters are simply horrible across the board, but they fail to create depth to that statement, because obviously there’s areas in Michigan that are far worse than others. For example, if we take a look at Livingston county vs. Oakland county.

Which are neighboring counties in southeast Michigan. I live in Oakland county now, but grew up in Livingston county, and based on my experience in just that short commute, the winters are actually noticeably different. Oakland county tends to get hit a little harder, and I don’t know the science or truth behind it, I just know it from experience. Livingston county is a little more central in the state, whereas Oakland county tends to be closer to the water, but on the other hand I have family that lives north of Detroit in the St. Clair shores area and I will have several inches of snow while he has nothing at all, so it really is very hit or miss. Some areas in Michigan will have their first snowfall in November before Thanksgiving, and in some rare years, we’ve even seen a few snow falls around Halloween, but that has been very few times in my lifetime. With the groundhog's shadow aside, it’s safe to say the last snowfall happens early April, with 1 in 4 Aprils not receiving any snow, so most times it stops throwing around the white powder late March. It’s safe to say we are typically free of snow between the months of May and September.

So where exactly does that leave the temperatures? Well, based on how different the annual snowfall is in each region of the state, it’s a safe answer to say it depends on where you are in Michigan, but instead of giving you that horrible response, I’ll show you the temperature averages from 2014 to 2022 in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Traverse City and Marquette just to give you some well rounded insight on the temperature fluctuations. In Ann Arbor which is in southeast Michigan, the temperatures are around 31-41 degrees in the months of January until March, then from may to September, the temperature stays at about 73 degrees aside form the peak of the 8o degree temps in June, July and august, where it then goes back down after September until hitting 41 degrees in December.

Grand Rapids on the other hand which is northwest of ann arbor, has 30-41 degree temperatures in the months from January to march, with 72 degree temps may to September despite their 83 degree peak in July and it then trickles back down to 41 degrees in December similar to Ann Arbor. Traverse city is a a few degrees colder as it’s farther north than Grand rapids at the tip of the mitten in the lower peninsula, where it’s 28 to 39 degrees in January until march, 70 degrees from may to September aside from the 80 degree peak in July and then it jumps down to 39 degrees in December. Last but not least, we have Marquette which is located toward the upper middle of the upper peninsula, where their temps from January to march are between 25 and 35 degrees, then average 66 degrees from June to September despite the 76 degree peak in July and then it falls down to 35 degrees at the end of November.

So these areas being scattered all over the state have similar temperatures give or take 3-5 degrees. But I wouldn’t say these temps are set in stone by any means, there are summers where we hit over 90 degrees and winters when a higher windchill is factored in which is the temperature a person feels when the wind is added in. So for example, let's jump back to 2019 when we had a polar vortex in Michigan and saw the coldest wind chills we’ve had in many years, that caused the temperatures to be 10 to 25 degrees below zero, and there were warnings, school closings, and precautions in place, because you could get frostbite within 10 minutes of your skin being exposed to the weather, and many cases hit the headlines about making sure you didn’t leave your dogs outside for too long, and also making sure you had over ½ a tank of gas just in case it wasn’t too low to freeze and hurt your car.

So how exactly would you plan a trip here or go about living in a snowy place like Michigan? Again it’s very region based, but as a southeast Michigan resident, I’m not putting chains on my tires, prioritizing 4 wheel drive cars, adding some extra poundage in my trunk for traction or have seasonal tires I change out, I just drive with caution. My first car was front wheel drive, my second car was a front wheel drive midsize SUV, and my car now is an All wheel drive large SUV, and with that diversified selection in mind, there’s a risk no matter what automobile you drive. Michigan has salt and plow trucks on speed dial to deal with the roads as soon as we get snow, but I have come to realize that the majority of accidents happen during the first snow when people just forget how to transition from driving on dry pavement to now having to be aware of black ice, slush and just some added inches of powder on the road.

The answer is to drive slow, no matter who's honking, riding up on you, it’s not worth getting in an accident and chances are the person who’s road raging against you and flew by you going 20 over the speed limit will be the same person you see in a ditch with their hazard lights on a few miles up the road. Adding weight to your trunk, having winter tires, utilizing some type of chain contraption on your tires, along with having a 4 wheel or all wheel drive car are just a few options to ensure your safety on the roads, but us Michiganders don’t plan that hard, because we are used to it by now. A rear wheel car however may not be the best idea unless you’re looking to star in the upcoming fast and furious movie, it probably wouldn’t hurt to add some weight on the back of that one.

Lastly, I want to spitball some quick tips your way before you trot yourself on over here. Number one, don't forget your layers, I have found a lot of people outside of Michigan just have one coat or a long sleeve or whatever, but the best way to combat the cold if you aren’t used to it is to layer it up. Number 2, if there’s anticipation for a good snow fall, go to the store and stock up a little bit so you don’t have to drive as frequently. Number 3, everyone you talk to in Michigan will still probably complain about winter even though they are used to it, it’s just an icebreaker to make conversation, just go with it. Number 4, despite the chilliness, I guarantee you’re going to fall in love with the winter views because most times they are picture perfect. Number 5, Make sure you have a windshield scraper brush combo for your car to scrape ice and brush snow off, as well as some good working windshield wipers if you get caught up in a snow storm while driving. Last but not least, Number 6, that moment you think you’re done shoveling, I promise you're not. There’s a strategy to it, maybe you invest in a snowblower, or start shoveling halfway through a longer snowfall so you don’t have to take on the full heavy load at once.

For those of you in or out of the state of Michigan, what are your thoughts on the winter time? Drop your experiences in the comments below.


→Preparing Your Home For The Winter:



Andrew McManamon is a Michigan REALTOR® with Signature Sotheby’s International Realty and provides real estate services to Buyers, Sellers and Investors throughout SE Michigan including Livingston County, Oakland County, Washtenaw County, Genesee County & beyond. Andrew has become one of the rising stars of Michigan real estate agents. Prior to his real estate career Andrew was responsible for managing a senior living facility in Brighton, Michigan as a dining supervisor and an activities assistant. Andrew’s passion to help people is unlike any other, and he continues to strive to be best resource he can be. Andrew graduated from Cleary University in Howell, Michigan with a double major and currently resides in White Lake, Michigan.

bottom of page