Monday, December 1, 2008

Saline Sales Report for November 2008

Here’s the latest Saline Sales report for November, 2008. This is an update to my regular market statistics which I report around the middle of the month. If you are interested in Saline real estate, here’s what happened in November, 2008.

Selling Prices
Saline Homes Active Sold Lowest Highest Months of Supply
City of Saline 85 5 $168,000 $463,500 17
Lodi Township 54 1 $498,200 $498,200 54
Pittsfield Township 66 7 $278,500 $377,500 9.4
Saline Township 19 1 $137,000 $137,000 19
York Township 48 3 $184,000 $190,000 16
Average 16

The average months of supply for November declined from 17.4 months in October. This continues a trend of improvement in the overall market for existing Saline homes.

Selling Prices
Saline Condos Active Sold Lowest Highest Months of Supply
City of Saline 31 0 -- -- --
Lodi Township 5 0 -- -- --
Pittsfield Township 6 0 -- -- --
Saline Township 4 0 -- -- --
York Township 0 0 -- -- --
Average --

While there were no condo sales in the Saline market for November, keep in mind that there was a 12.3 months of supply inventory of condos for sale during October, when there were 49 condos for sale. During November, the number of condos for sale declined slightly to 46 condos for sale, so the market for existing Saline condos continues to improve, as well.

If you’d like to keep up with the Saline real estate market, please subscribe to my blog. Thanks!

If you’re looking to buy or sell any Saline real estate, or have questions about your specific situation, you owe it to yourself to take advantage of my experience in the Saline market. I’d be happy to meet with you! Just give me a call at (734) 476-2063, or send an e-mail, “Vance (at) SalineMichiganRealEstate (dot) com”.

You can search for homes and condos in Saline here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The biggest shopping day of the year

Today, the Friday after Thanksgiving, is known as the biggest shopping day of the year.

For my family, that is most certainly true!

We start with all the ads in the Thanksgiving newspaper – actually, it’s one of the few times during the year when I even bother to look at the ads. Working with the list of family members we selected on Thanksgiving day, we’ll put together our “shopping list”. Then, it’s off to the stores!

The Friday after Thanksgiving has been given the name “Black Friday” – not because it’s bad, but because it’s good. It is likely the first day of the year when a store moves into the “black” on their profitability statement. Think about that! You own a store, and all year, until Thanksgiving, you’re losing money. But beginning the day after Thanksgiving, you begin making a profit for the first time all year. Talk about risk! Those store-owners are counting on us to make their year profitable, starting today. So, it’s time to hit the stores now.

Go. Shop. Now.

If you like what you’re reading here, please subscribe to my blog. Thanks!

If you’re considering a Saline home or condo, you owe it to yourself to take advantage of my experience in the Saline market. I’d be happy to meet with you! Just give me a call at (734) 476-2063, or send an e-mail, “Vance (at) SalineMichiganRealEstate (dot) com”.

You can search for homes and condos in Saline here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Saline market report for November 2008

Here’s the latest Saline market report for November, 2008. This is an update to my regular sales report which I reported earlier this month. If you are interested in a Saline home or condo, here’s how our market looks in November, 2008.

Each month, I review all of the homes for sale (column 2) in Saline within defined price ranges (column 1), and those homes where the sellers have accepted a sales offer from a buyer (columns 3 & 4 – Percent Pending). I also review all of the sales in past 30 days in each price range (column 6). The results for November 2008 are shown in the table below:

Using the data shown above, this month, let’s look at a chart of the number of months of inventory of homes for sale in Saline. The number of months of inventory is calculated by taking the total number of homes available for sale (column 2 above) divided by the number of homes which have sold in the past 30 days (column 6 above).

In the chart above, the blue bars show the number of months of inventory each month in 2007. The red bars show the number of months of inventory each month so far in 2008.

This chart clearly shows the continuing improvement we see in the Saline real estate market. Other than back in January, 2008, the level of inventory so far in 2008 is lower than in the same month in 2007. The figure for November, 2008 is that we have 11.4 months of homes to be sold. The figure for 2007 was 16.8 months of homes to be sold.

The holidays are right around the corner, and Saline homes and condos are still selling. I’ll continue to keep track of our market. Count on it!

If you want to be the first to know about conditions in the Saline market, please subscribe to my blog. Thanks!

What do you think? Do you see the market improving here in Saline? I’d love to read your comments on our market.

If you have questions about your specific situation, or if you’re considering selling your Saline home or condo, you owe it to yourself to take advantage of my experience in the Saline market. I’d be happy to meet with you! Just give me a call at (734) 476-2063, or send an e-mail, “Vance (at) SalineMichiganRealEstate (dot) com”.

You can search for homes and condos in Saline here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A sight for sore eyes in Saline

Just this morning, we saw a sight for sore eyes in Saline.

Did you ever think we’d see gas prices below $2 again?

If you like what you’re reading here, please subscribe to my blog. Thanks!

If you’re looking to buy or sell a Saline home or condo, or have questions about your specific situation, you owe it to yourself to take advantage of my experience in the Saline market. I’d be happy to meet with you! Just give me a call at (734) 476-2063, or send an e-mail, “Vance (at) SalineMichiganRealEstate (dot) com”.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Featured homes

Here’s an update on my featured homes for sale, and for lease.

1469 Middlewood, Saline ($245,000)
161 Commons Circle, Saline ($145,000)
1513 White St., Ann Arbor ($200,000)
1218 City Dr., Ann Arbor ($150,000)
1766 Fulmer, Ann Arbor (Lease - $1295/mo)
4125 Weber Road, Saline (Lease - $1375/mo)
211 Old Creek, Saline (Lease - $1400/mo)
212 Commons Court, Saline (Lease - $1000/mo)

You can take a virtual tour of any of these homes through the respective post.

If you’re ready to start your search for a Saline home or condo, talk to someone with local knowledge! I’d be happy to meet with you. Just give me a call at (734) 476-2063, or send an e-mail, “Vance (at) SalineMichiganRealEstate (dot) com”.

You can search for homes and condos in Saline here.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

1513 White St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104 - Home for sale

If you thought you couldn't afford to live in the Burns Park school district in Ann Arbor, check out 1513 White St.

212 Wolverine, Manchester, MI - home for sale

Check out a great home for sale in the nearby quaint Village of Manchester, located at 212 Wolverine. It's worth the drive!

161 Commons Circle, Saline, MI - Condo for sale

Check out a great condo for sale at 161 Commons Circle in Saline.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Do the right thing

EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW — these words, written above the main entrance to the Supreme Court Building, express the ultimate responsibility of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court is the highest tribunal in the Nation for all cases and controversies arising under the Constitution or the laws of the United States. As the final arbiter of the law, the Court is charged with ensuring the American people the promise of equal justice under law and, thereby, also functions as guardian and interpreter of the Constitution.

Last week, the Supreme Court issued its decision in a case regarding a gun law in Washington DC. Given that Washington is a district created by the Federal government, it is appropriate that the highest Federal court in the land should ultimately decide the case.
And yet, any decision rendered by the Supreme Court must be interpreted through its chief function “as guardian and interpreter of the Constitution.” So the justices in the DC gun law case (a 5-4 decision that the law was indeed un-Constitutional) ultimately knew that their decision had ramifications well beyond the District of Columbia and its gun law.

Which leads me to my point.

Some are more equal than others

There were four justices who actually decided that the DC gun law WAS Constitutional.

If those four justices made their decision about DC (and ONLY about DC), then they were abrogating their Constitutional responsibility. They KNEW that their decision had to be viewed in their role as “guardian and interpreter of the Constitution,” no matter if they were only deciding a case in a federal district.

On the other hand, if those four justices made their decision about DC with full understanding of their role as “guardian and interpreter of the Constitution”, then they were deciding that the second amendment itself was un-Constitutional – a preposterous argument if ever there were one!

So which is it? Did those four justices abrogate their responsibility as “guardian and interpreter of the Constitution?” Or, did they decide that an Article of the Constitution itself was un-Constitutional?

Either way, they are either so incompetent as to be unfit for the job, or so devious as to be likewise unfit. They don’t deserve to sit on the bench any longer. And yet, we all have to suffer under their decision-making for the rest of their lives, or term on the bench.

A sad day for America and our Liberty.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Golf Course Economics

Regular readers may know already that I enjoy playing golf. Even on a bad day, it’s still a great walk in the park. And while we see Tiger on TV hitting the ball 300+ yards on his drive, I’ve found that the greatest distance in golf is 6 inches – the brain space between the ears. If nothing else, golf is the supreme battle with yourself over control – control of your emotions and your physical body. If you can control the 6 inches between your ears, you can excel at golf.

While playing golf recently, I commented to my playing partner about the changing economics of a golf course.

Think about it.

A golf course is nothing more than an area of finely-maintained lawn. In order to maintain that lawn, it requires regular (daily) mowing – which uses lots of gas or diesel in the mower engines. In order to keep the grass green, and the bugs away, a golf course requires regular application of chemicals – fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides – which are mostly made up from petrochemicals.

We’ve all seen the changes in the price of gas (and a barrel of oil) lately.

So if you’re a golfer, consider how the changes in the price of gas have hit your local golf course operation. It’s likely that we’ll be paying more for the privilege of playing golf in the future.

Lunch with a Friend

About a month ago (May 19), I wrote about my experience at the BloodhoundBlog Unchained conference in Phoenix. The inspiration from the conference is still with me – I’m still working on my list of 30+ “things to do” which came out of my experience there.

One of the presenters at the conference is a fabulous Realtor® from Dayton, Ohio – Teri Lussier. She describes herself as “Real estate professional, social networking participant, Web 2.0 enthusiast. “ Being that we’re both in practice in the general “Midwest”, we struck a chord together at the conference. Her market in Dayton is not dissimilar from my market in the Ann Arbor and Saline area.

Yesterday (June 26), Teri and I met for lunch in Findlay, Ohio – about halfway between Dayton and Ann Arbor.

Our conversation ranged all over the map – follow-up from the conference, what we’ve implemented in our businesses as a result of the conference, family updates, and blogging in general.

The bulk of our conversation, though, was about Teri’s latest efforts at BloodhoundBlog. Project Bloodhound has been launched. The goal of the project is to collect some of the best and brightest comments and answers to questions. Those who will be asking the questions are six new participants at BloodhoundBlog. Their experience as Realtors® and as Bloggers ranges from newbie to experienced pro. Being a regular reader and commenter at BloodhoundBlog, I look forward to watching Project Bloodhound unfold. And with Teri’s guiding hand (keyboard? Mouse?), the project will be fabulous.

Hat’s off to you, Teri!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Market Statistics for Saline - June 2008

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As you all know, I review our market statistics around the middle of each month.What I'd like to focus on this month is the Saline Michigan real estate market.

The first chart I’d like to review is shown above. I’ve tracked real estate activity for the Saline Michigan real estate market since 1996. There is a definite seasonality to the market – strength in the summer, weakness in the winter. A reading above 25% is a “seller’s” market, while a reading below 20% is a “buyer’s” market.

It’s no surprise to learn that we have been in a “buyer’s” market in Saline since the end of 2004 – more than three years, now.

What’s intriguing about this first chart is the strengthening of the Saline Michigan real estate market since January. What could be the cause of this?

This second chart (above) shows 2 lines. The top line shows the number of homes available for sale (listings) in the Saline area. The lower line shows the number of homes sold each month.
In answer to my question posed above (What could be the cause of this?), the strengthening of the Saline Michigan real estate market since October is a direct result of fewer homes listed for sale. How could this make the market stronger? Well, with fewer homes competing for the available buyers, it’s more likely that any of the homes listed for sale will actually sell during the month. That’s what we mean by a strengthening of the market!

Another interesting observation from the chart is that the number of sales in the Saline area has been rather consistent since 2005! In a previous post, we learned about the three "P's" that you control when you sell. The homes that are selling now, have been selling since 2005, are those that have consistency between the three "P's". Go back and check that post for a reminder.
The final piece of the analysis of the strength of the Saline Michigan real estate market is the months of supply of homes presently on the market.

This table shows the “raw data” that makes up the charts shown above. On the far right hand side of this table shows the “Months Supply” in each price range. Rather than focus on any particular price range, it’s more helpful to understand the overall level of inventory of homes for sale.

As of mid-June, at the present pace of sales of homes in Saline, there are enough homes on the market to supply only 8 ½ months of demand. This is down significantly since February, when there was nearly a 20 months’ supply of homes for sale. In the past few years, it’s been typical to have about 6 months’ supply of homes for sale, so our market is improving toward our average.

If you’re considering selling your Saline home or condo, you owe it to yourself to take advantage of my experience and market understanding. I’d be happy to meet with you! Just give me a call at (734) 476-2063, or send an e-mail, “Vance (at) SalineMichiganRealEstate (dot) com”.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Flipping for Video of your Saline real estate

It is said that you never get a second chance for a good first impression. When you’re looking to sell your Saline home or condo, you want to be sure that your home gives a great first impression.

Recently, I added a new tool to my real estate arsenal – the Flip video. If you haven’t seen one already, you likely will very soon. They’re becoming ubiquitous. Here’s why:

1. The Flip is incredibly easy to use for recording.
2. It has a USB plug-in already built in – just plug it into your computer.
3. The software for manipulating the videos is built into the Flip.
4. Once you’ve downloaded your video to your computer, you can immediately upload it to YouTube.

So why is the Flip so important when you’re looking to sell your Saline home or condo?

Most Realtors® pay close attention to the new listings of homes and condos for sale, every day. Most Realtors® also have set up “automatic” searches for homes and condos, to alert their active buyers of new listings which meet the client’s needs. We use the term “flash” to signify an e-mail update of the new listing information sent to the buyer client.

When that e-mail goes out to buyers, you want to have every tool for marketing your home in place – especially a video of your home. And that is where the Flip is so useful.

In the “olden” days of real estate sales (2007 and before), if you wanted a video of your home, you’d have to wait for a professional videographer to do the shoot. Then you’d have to wait several days, up to a week, to have the video available for viewing on the internet. Those videographers still exist, and they still serve a useful purpose.

But when that “flash” e-mail is sent, these days, we can include a video of your home available on YouTube. That way, when a buyer first sees your Saline home or condo for sale, they’ll be able to take a quick video tour of your home at the same time, when their excited about seeing your home. That could be just the edge we need in selling your home these days.

If you’re considering selling your Saline home or condo, you owe it to yourself to take advantage of my experience with the Flip video. I’d be happy to meet with you! Just give me a call at (734) 476-2063, or send an e-mail, “Vance (at) SalineMichiganRealEstate (dot) com”.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Foreclosures in Saline

It’s a sad fact of life that, even in the Saline real estate market, many people have lost their homes through bank foreclosure.

According to RealtyTrac; a website that logs foreclosure filings, foreclosure rates continue to rise in most of the top 100 largest metropolitan areas of the country.

The effects of foreclosure have spread beyond the delinquent borrower. The losses had a chain reaction from the defaulting borrower, to the lender and the investors. The foreclosure process costs the lenders thousands in losses through legal fees and taxes due until the property is sold. Not to mention the lost equity when the house is priced to sell in a weak market. We’ve seen the news that many of the major financial institutions (such as Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch) have reported billions in losses on investments backed by mortgages. You can read one of these reports here.

On a wider scale, even those who have not, or will not, default in their payment were affected. Foreclosure raises the risk of fire, vandalism, theft and other crimes not only in the vacant foreclosed homes but in the surrounding houses, streets and neighborhoods. Here is an article that discussed how the mortgage meltdown sparked a crime wave in one of the areas hardest hit by foreclosure.

When you combine an increase in inventories of foreclosed houses for sale with the typically lower-than-market value sale price of foreclosures, the result is that it weakens the local housing markets. It pulls down the value of other nearby homes and sometimes the whole neighborhood. Buying a foreclosed property in an area known for a lot of foreclosures doesn't leave much room for capital growth, if an investor is planning to flip it.

Remember, although there are many opportunities available in foreclosed properties, not all foreclosures present an opportunity for successful investment. Do your own research. Check the foreclosure statistics in the area. How did the foreclosures in the area affect the neighborhood? Did it increase the crime rate in the area? Are there any developments or job growth that can affect the area's future capital growth potential? Be aware of any indicators that can further dampen the house prices and look out for genuine bargains that can be a potential gold mine.

If you’re considering an investment in a foreclosed home in the Saline real estate market, you owe it to yourself to explore the risks and rewards first. I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned through my experience. Just give me a call at (734) 476-2063, or send an e-mail, “Vance (at)”.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Understanding Buyer Agency for Saline Michigan real estate

If you’re in the market to buy Saline real estate, it’s vitally important that you understand buyer agency. In this article I’d like to briefly cover the subject.

When looking to sell their Saline home or condo, sellers will generally interview a number of agents, with the goal of hiring the best real estate agent to list and sell their home. As a buyer, you may just want to see some Saline homes or condos, and therefore you may think that you need an agent only to open the lockbox and let you view the property. In general, many buyers really don't care who opens the door to the house for them.

But they should.

When someone calls me to see one of the many homes I have listed for sale, there are a number of questions I’ll typically ask:

Are you working with another real estate agent to help you buy a home? No, why?

Well, we have to ask. Why?

Because if you are already working with another real estate agent, and if I'm not the listing agent for the home you want to see, then I can't show it to you. Aren't you the listing agent?

No, unfortunately, all of the available homes for sale in the Saline real estate market that you can view on my website are not my listings. Who's the listing agent?

You see, if you want to buy a home and you don't understand buyer agency, you really shouldn't be buying a home. If you do understand buyer agency and choose not to use a buyer agent to represent your interests in the transaction, then by all means, buy a home.

A real estate agent does more than open the lockbox and the door to the home and point out the obvious, such as “This is the kitchen” or “That's a nice walk in closet in the master bedroom.” A real estate agent offers a buyer negotiating expertise, knowledge of the Saline real estate market, and experience in helping buyers avoid potential pitfalls when buying a home. I’ve always looked at Buyer Agency as making sure that a buyer doesn’t make a mistake.

A buyer who chooses to become a client by entering into a written Buyer Agency agreement can expect me, and my Company, to provide the following client level services:

Reasonable care and skill

Client level services also include advice, counsel and assistance in negotiations (emphasis added).

The best part of buyer agency in the Saline real estate market is that it doesn't cost you any money to be represented. The seller pays the commission to the listing broker, who splits it with the broker representing the buyer.

If you are ready to look at Saline homes or condos, call me at (734) 476-2063, and I’ll guide you to find the perfect home in Saline to meet your needs.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Stage your Saline home for selling now

If you’re looking to sell your Saline home or Condo, ask yourself how serious you really are to sell. If you’re really serious, it pays to have your home professionally staged.

Home Staging is the very best proven way to get top dollar for your home as you prepare it for sale. Homes that are Staged by a Professional Home Stager sell faster and for more money! This is because Staging sets the scene throughout the house to create immediate buyer interest in your property. This will then lead to your home selling for the highest possible price in today's market. Remember, "The way you live in your home, and the way you market and sell your house are two different things."

“Home staging” is not a new term, but for many homeowners and real estate agents the concept of “professional home staging” is shedding new light on how to promote a home in the real estate marketplace. In past years, homeowners were left to their own discretion as far as preparing for home showings. Though they could occasionally rely on an agent for instructions, more often than not real estate agents were just as perplexed at working out the details as the homeowner.

While agents are experts in the field of selling and closing, many are not design savvy. Agents usually know exactly what factors can help sell a home. It’s just not always easy to get a home into selling condition in a timely manner without some sort of experienced assistance.

Professional home stagers are practiced in the art of preparing a home for resale. They work with the “flow” of a home, eliminate clutter, edit and arrange furniture, and even assist in enhancing curb-appeal. With the aid of a professional home stager, your house can make a notable first impression on potential homebuyers. As the real estate industry often stresses, the first impression is the key factor in selling your home.

You find and select a professional home stager much like you would find any other professional service. Ask around and get referrals. Check with your real estate agent.

When you contact a home stager, ask for an estimate. Most home staging businesses will be happy to give you a free estimate and it is usually a quick process. Keep in mind that this is only an estimate and estimates can be a bit off. However, unless something unforeseen takes place between the estimate and the actual job itself, an estimate should be fairly accurate.

Get several free estimates and make some calculations. Just like any service, pricing in the home staging industry can vary over a wide range. Some charge an hourly rate and some will charge you a set fee for the entire job. Be sure to ask how they determine their fee so that you can make an educated decision. Also, factor in the condition of your home, the average amount of time homes have been on the market in your area, and the asking price of your home.

Asking price can play a huge factor in what you should be willing to pay for staging services. Some professional home stagers bring in rented furnishings, driving the price up considerably. Some simply charge too much to make it pay off. A lot of home stagers seem to forget that their clients are planning on moving out of the house very soon. Most home sellers are not willing to invest a huge amount of cash in a house they are planning on leaving behind.

Find out up front what the stager is planning to bring in and at what cost. Though expert services do come at a price, the cost should balance with the expected benefit of a higher selling price. As a rule, the higher the asking price of the home, the more one can spend to have it professionally staged.

So when it’s time to sell your Saline home or Condo, consider having it professionally staged. If you’d like the names of some excellent home stagers in the Saline area, give me a call at (734) 476-2063.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Open House - Sunday, June 8, 2008

1469 Middlewood, Saline, MI 48176
You're invited to visit this beautiful 3 bedroom home in the Maplewood Farms subdivision of Saline.

I'll be hosting an open house on Sunday, June 8, 2008 between 2-4pm. You're welcome to visit during that time.
I look forward to meeting you on Sunday!
See also:

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Too good to be true!

Just another quick article to let you know how I recently helped a client with their Saline real estate investment plans.

Bart and Lisa are experienced real estate investors in the Saline area. They watched with great interest as home prices have declined about 30% over the past 3 years, focusing mainly on bank foreclosures. Recently, a bank listed a home for sale which was “too good to be true,” only this time, it really was true!

Bart and Lisa had already done their “home”work, by getting their pre-approval with their bank. When the opportunity came up, we jumped, making the first and best offer, on the house.

After we had the home inspected and found nothing objectionable, we knew that Bart and Lisa would be making money right away with this property.

A wise Real Estate investor once told me “I never made money when selling a property – I made money when I bought it.” Given the level of home prices right now – mostly in bank foreclosures - lots of people will be making money when they buy. Will you?

Are you ready to start your Saline real estate investment search? Contact me, and I’ll guide you on finding the perfect investment property in Saline to meet your needs. (734) 476-2063.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Saint Joseph's Statue?

Why do people bury a statue of a Saint in their garden? How could it be nice to a real Saint to bury a statue of him in the ground? These questions inevitably come up when considering the old tradition to bury a statue of Saint Joseph when you want to sell your Saline real estate.

The history behind the tradition to bury a statue of Saint Joseph is hundreds of years old (A.D. 1515 - 1582). It began in Europe when the nuns at a Cloister needed to expand their land, and as a prayer to Saint Joseph, they buried medals of him in the ground. After a short time they found out that their prayers had been heard and they got more land. This old story has lived on until today, but on the tradition has changed from burying medals to burying statues.

When you first heard that a friend sold their house thanks to a statue of Saint Joseph, you may have been confused. Like any other normal person, your first response was likely “No surprise there!” when your friends told you that they had wanted to sell their Saline home for a few months, but no one showed any interest.

That was when they were recommended to try to bury a statue of Saint Joseph by their “For Sale” sign. They felt a little strange burying it, but they also said that they had known many people that had put their faith in God and succeeded, and that history is full of those stories, so why not give it a try? They bought a statue of Saint Joseph, read the instructions, read the prayers, and said that after the ritual was done, they felt relief, and really knew that soon they were about to sell their house. One week later, they were pleased to accept an offer on their house.

Your friends were religious before, but their faith in the Saints and Saint Joseph has surely increased. That little Saint Joseph statue they buried followed them to their new home, and can be seen over the fireplace in the living room. Do they credit the sale to Saint Joseph? For sure, that little statue helped them to get the faith they needed to make the sale. And they did.

So when it comes to buying or selling your Saline real estate, I look forward to the opportunity to serve you. (734) 476-2063.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Open House at your Saline home?

When you are considering Saline real estate, you may be wondering “What is an Open House, and what is its purpose?” The short answer: It depends. That wasn’t very helpful, was it? Let me explain.

An Open House can serve a multitude of purposes - it’s a real multi-purpose tool for a real estate agent. The intended outcome is to sell your Saline home, so that should be the primary goal of an open house. But the fact is, that doesn’t happen very often. Why? There are lots of different reasons most homes don’t sell at the open house. So why do Realtors® hold open houses? To sell your house. OK, is this not making sense?

Look at it this way: If your home does not sell at an open house, that does not mean the open house was not successful. Perhaps the buyers came through and will take that information back to their own Realtor®. Perhaps they are parents or friends of out of town buyers and will take that information back to the buyer. Perhaps they are nosy neighbors who are have always been curious about what your property looked like, but once inside, they know someone who would love your house! By holding an open house, you are creating interest in your Saline home. If your home is priced correctly, and prepared properly, you and your real estate agent have a real opportunity to generate some buzz. Hopefully you have done the things you need to do in order to welcome serious buyers. So what is your Realtor® doing? Marketing, of course!

How do you market an open house? It depends on the market for your home. Who are the potential buyers? Your real estate agent should be able to tell you who those buyers are, and have a plan for reaching them. You are hiring a real estate agent to market your home, hopefully they understand the difference between buyers who are looking for starter homes and buyers who are looking for a palatial estate in the country. Some marketing will be similar for each, but marketing is never a one-size-fits-all proposition.

Open houses are a form of entertainment for some people on a Sunday afternoon. Some Realtors® complain about those visitors, but I welcome them! Who better to appreciate your home than someone who looks at open houses for fun and excitement? I figure these are the people who are talking up homes to their friends! “You are moving?!? Where to? Oh! I just went through the cutest little home in Saline last week! Let me tell you about it…” Hooray! We have someone marketing for us! If you are an open house fan, you are welcome to my open houses anytime! Come on in! Take your time, look around. I only ask that you please remember me - Vance Shutes, Real Estate One, the brilliant and nice Realtor® who didn’t mind that you visited his client’s beautifully and well-priced home, welcoming you on Sunday afternoon as his guest. Then when you discuss homes tell people that you know a great Realtor® who holds the best open houses around (I suppose it’s too late for a shameless self-promotion alert… ?).

If you are selling a home, ask questions - know why an agent is holding your home open, and make sure it meets your needs.

I have to thank my friend Teri Lussier, in Dayton, Ohio for the inspiration for this article.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Michigan Get-aways

There's nothing like a beautiful sunset to re-awaken your sense of the beauty in nature. Here’s what I saw over the Memorial Day weekend at my favorite “home away from home” in Frankfort, Michigan.

Frankfort is a small community on the Lake Michigan shoreline in the northwestern Lower Peninsula, at the mouth of the Betsie river. Betsie Bay is the home of many marinas, home for the serious fishing enthusiast and the serious recreational boater.

So, how does this relate to Saline real estate?

Simple! Saline is home to one of the top charter boat captains fishing out of the Betsie Bay.

Gold Coast Charters is operated by Eric Walline, a Saline resident. Captain Eric has hosted my family for fishing charters out of the Betsie Bay for several years now. Here’s a photo of our catch last summer:

Captain Eric also fishes out of Lake Erie during June and early July. Then he takes his boat north to Frankfort for the King Salmon season in Lake Michigan. He takes out charters both in the morning and in the evening. For some reason, the Salmon bite best at twilight, so we usually hit the water at 5am, and have our first fish in the boat by 6am. By 10am, the bites have stopped, and we head into port to have our catch cleaned and filleted. Occasionally, we take a nice fillet over to the Port City Smokehouse to get the freshest smoked salmon you will ever find! From lake to smokehouse within four hours!

Another of our favorite activities as a family is to hike the trails found all around Frankfort. Just north of Frankfort are the Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshore. There are dozens of great hiking trails throughout the dunes – just be careful to stay on the trail, so as not to harm the fragile dune grasses. Contrary to what you might expect from “dunes”, the wooded trails are extensive. Here’s a “grab shot” I took on Sunday morning – we had just seen several deer in this clearing, and I just missed them!

All in all, Frankfort is a great place for a Michigan Get-away!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

America the Beautiful

There's nothing like an airplane ride across America to give you a better understanding of how huge, dynamic, and beautiful our great country really is.

From the Rocky Mountains,
to the high Desert, to the checkerboard of cornucopia in the great middle of our land,
this truly is "America the Beautiful".
Great highways thread like ribbons across the land, flowing with the traffic of commerce - visible even from 38,000 feet. Serpentine rivers, bordered with lush greenery, carry their life-sustaining water along a meandering path. Snowy mountain peaks proclaiming their freedom from the bounds of the "flatlands." Everywhere you look out the window of the plane, you can't help but be in awe.

So, what does this have to do with Saline real estate?

Only that we live in a fabulous town with many of the same dynamism and beauty seen elsewhere in America.

Oh, sure, we've got our share of problems. Job uncertainty, foreclosures, homes sitting unsold for long periods. I'm no airplane-in-the-sky PollyAnna, after all.

In Phoenix, many of the same problems exist. The local Phoenix Realtors with whom I spoke over the past three days echoed the same concerns that you hear around Saline - job uncertainty, foreclosures, homes sitting unsold for long periods. The collective group acknowledged the challenges we face, then turned their backs on the shadows of despair. We were there to develop new skills, to learn new tools, which will allow us to serve our clients at an outstanding level of performance. Can anything be guaranteed? Only that you will get the very best I can give!

What made the past three days at the "Unchained" conference so energizing for me is the total confidence that the attendees have in the future. We've been through times like this before, and we survived. Many will actually thrive, because we see the glass as half-full.

So, take heart, my wonderful community of Saline! We will survive - Nay, we will thrive!

Remember, we have what they want!

See also:

Watch out, Phoenix!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Watch out, Arizona!

Watch out, Arizona! And California, Washington, Colorado, and Nevada!

For the past three days, I have been attending the Bloodhound Blog Unchained conference in Phoenix. It’s humbling to be around so many brilliant Web 2.0 Realtors and Lenders at one time! While we’re indoors at the Heard Museum learning the tools needed to serve our clients at a superior level, outside, the temperature is 110°F. It’s HOT!

When it’s that hot outside, what’s the one thing we hear, over and over, that we need to protect us? You need to drink plenty of water.

The problem? Soon, there won’t be enough water to go around in Phoenix. There’s only so much water in the Colorado river, and when it’s all gone, it’s all gone. And that’s a really big problem. So, watch out, Arizona! Ditto for Colorado and Nevada!

In California, as in Washington state, the problem is different. Even though home prices there have fallen in the past two years, they are still WAY above the prices of homes in the Ann Arbor area. So, watch out, California and Washington state! My friend, Jeff Brown (BawldGuy Talking), even writes about California prices today on his blog.

In Michigan, we have the things that employers (and all residents) want: plenty of water, and plenty of (less expensive) homes and land. We also have the benefit of some really intelligent and talented graduates coming out of the University of Michigan. Some of those graduates would like to stay in the Ann Arbor area.

Is it any wonder why Google located their AdWords division in Ann Arbor? We have plenty of water, plenty of (inexpensive) homes, and plenty of talented young people just itching to break into the world of Google.

So, if you had the choice of relocating your family to Phoenix, or LA, or Las Vegas, or San Francisco, or Denver, or Seattle, would you go? Or, would you rather relocate to the Ann Arbor area, where you can buy a lot more home (within 5 miles of your work, when gas costs $4 a gallon) than in any of those cities, with plenty of water, and with great schools?

Do you think the employers in those cities may be having some trouble attracting good new employees, because of concerns over housing costs and lack of water? Hmmm…..

When it comes to Saline real estate, we have what they want.

Monday, May 19, 2008


“If you’re not growing, you’re dying”. That’s a pretty powerful statement, but, if you really think about it, it’s true. We can’t just stay the same – even our body temperature changes throughout the day!

So, in an effort to grow, and more importantly, to learn new ways to serve my clients better and better, I’m here at the Bloodhound Blog Unchained conference in Phoenix, AZ.

Far be it from me to even begin to tell you all about Unchained. The instigator of the conference is Greg Swann, of Bloodhound Realty in Phoenix. I had the great fortune to actually meet the man with whom I’ve been e-mailing and blog-commenting for the past six months. I’ve also met many of the other regular contributors at Bloodhound Blog. It’s always fun to put a face and voice to an e-mail and blog-comment presence!

Sunday was a “Bonus” day before the “official” start of the conference. We heard from Mary McKnight, of RSSPieces, about the power of this medium – blogging. I’ll be posting more on what RSSPieces will be doing for me in the near future.

We also had the opportunity to hear from a couple of giants in the blogosphere – Laurie Manny (Long Beach, CA) and Russell Shaw (Phoenix, AZ). Here’s a quick photo I took with both “on stage” at the same time. Awesome!

But before all the work of Unchained, I had the great fun of attending the baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Saturday evening with my Father-in-law and his significant other. Here’s a few photos from the game.

In comparison with the cool weather back in Michigan, it was 105 degrees today in Phoenix. The humidity was about 15%, so you barely even break a sweat when you’re outside – it just dries up before it can even put a shine on your skin! Even with the low humidity, it’s darn hot here! I’d take a nice balance between the mid-50’s in Michigan and the heat out here – say, a nice 75 degree day. THAT would be super!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Saline Real Estate market conditions for May 2008

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As you all know, I review our market statistics around the middle of each month. What I'd like to focus on this month is the overall strength of the market in, and around, Saline.

The first chart I’d like to review is shown below. I’ve tracked real estate activity for the Saline real estate market since 1996. There is a definite seasonality to the market – strength in the summer, weakness in the winter. A reading above 25% is a “seller’s” market, while a reading below 20% is a “buyer’s” market.

It’s no surprise to learn that we have been in a “buyer’s” market in Saline since the end of 2004 – more than three years, now.

What we see here in the middle of May, 2008, is a continued strengthening in the overall real estate market, going back to last October. The jump in strength from April to May is very encouraging, as we have reached a level unseen since the summer of 2005. So, the question to ask is “What could be the cause of this?”
This second chart (above) shows 2 lines. The top line shows the number of homes available for sale (listings) in the Saline area. The lower line shows the number of homes sold each month.

In answer to my question posed above (What could be the cause of this?), the strengthening of the Saline market since October is a direct result of fewer homes listed for sale. Each month, there are fewer and fewer homes for sale in the Saline market. How could this make the market stronger? Well, with fewer homes competing for the available buyers, it’s more likely that any of the homes listed for sale will actually sell during the month. That’s what we mean by a strengthening of the market!

Another interesting observation from the chart is that the number of sales in the Saline area has been rather consistent since 2005! In a previous post, we learned about the three "P's" that you control when you sell. The homes that are selling now, have been selling since 2005, are those that have consistency between the three "P's". Go back and check that post for a reminder.

The final piece of the analysis of the strength of the Saline real estate market is the months of supply of homes presently on the market.
This table shows the “raw data” that makes up the charts shown above. On the far right hand side of this table shows the “Months Supply” in each price range. Rather than focus on any particular price range, it’s more helpful to understand the overall level of inventory of homes for sale.

As of mid-May, at the present pace of sales of homes in Saline, there are enough homes on the market to supply about 10 months of demand. This is down significantly since February, when there was nearly a 20 months’ supply of homes for sale. In the past few years, it’s been typical to have about 6 months’ supply of homes for sale, so our market continues to improve toward our average.

If you're looking to sell in this market, take heart! Call me!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Auction your Saline Real Estate

The traditional method for selling your Saline real estate is to list it with a Broker. By “traditional”, I mean only that most sellers choose this method. You ask your friends and relatives for the name(s) of reputable Realtors®. You contact each of them, making note of the ease of reaching them, and your comfort level in speaking with them (after all, you’ll be speaking with them a lot during the selling process). You choose one and begin the listing process.

In today’s market for Saline real estate, we have an 11-month supply of homes available for sale. What that means is that it could take many months to get your home sold. (Let me emphasize that it could take that long, depending upon your asking price).

But what if you can’t wait that long to get your property sold?

There’s always (gasp!) an AUCTION (HUGE GASP!)

Why would you choose an auction?

With a real estate auction, you have the likelihood of a certain date for the sale of your property. I must emphasize that it’s only a likelihood – which you’ll understand more below.

There are two primary forms of auction.

1. An ABSOLUTE auction. This is where the property sells, no matter the hammered price. It is via an absolute auction that you get the most interest from the buying public, as they know that THEY could be the one to scoop up your property at THEIR price.

At an absolute auction, you also know the exact date that your property will likely sell. (I say “likely”, because until the buyer actually hands over the certified check to the auction house, it still isn’t sold).

2. A RESERVE auction. This is where the property sells, but only if the hammered price is above your minimum price. At a reserve auction, you’ll generally see fewer buyers than you will at an absolute auction. Bidders at a reserve auction will not know your minimum price. My guess is that a bidder’s thought process will be something like this – “I’ll bet they set a reserve because they ‘have’ to get a certain price, so I won’t bid as high, and hope only that I’m above the minimum.” Contrast this attitude with one from an absolute auction, where the bidders will continue to bid until they either win, or reach their maximum bid level.

At a reserve auction, if the reserve price isn’t met, you still won’t have a certain date that your property will sell. You may have to list it for sale again with a Realtor®, or try another auction. But understand, once an auction fails, the likelihood of a bidder increasing a bid amount is totally diminished. This ties into one of my fundamental truisms of real estate – the first offer is USUALLY the best offer.

I have been the listing agent for sellers at auction in the past. It is a gut-wrenching process to go through – not for those with a weak stomach. It’s not like eBay where you don’t see the seller or the other participants. Think about this. You have to know with absolute certainty what price you will accept, and stick to it. No wavering.

In one particular case, I recall watching a seller writhe in agony as the hammered bid amount was just slightly below the reserve price. I advised the seller to accept the bid, even though it was below the reserve level. While the seller deliberated, the buyer tapped his foot, waiting, and about two minutes later, walked away. The seller lost the sale, and eventually lost their house to foreclosure. Rather than accept a little less than they “wanted”, they lost their entire equity and their ability to borrow for years to come. All for a couple thousand dollars. Ouch.

If you’re wondering about an auction of your Saline real estate, ask an experienced Realtor® first.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Beanstalks Play Cafe of Saline

I’m not much of a coffee drinker (Pepsi is my choice for COLD caffeine). That said, many of my friends and clients (especially those with younger children) have lately spoken of a new spot for coffee (and more) in Saline.

Beanstalks Play Café is located in the old Calico Cat building (which is a former church built in 1899) at 117 S. Ann Arbor St. The building is located within the central business district in downtown Saline. Beanstalks Play Café joins the growing trend of businesses geared toward family-oriented play and recreation.

The space has a giant play structure, toddler area, small gift shop, coffee bar and snack area on the main floor. The lower floor has a video game room and space for birthday parties, and the top floor has an office.

Admission to the play cafe for a day is $6 for children ages 1 to 15. A three-month pass is available for $55 for one child, $90 for two children and $125 for a family of three or more children. Adults and children under 1 are free.

The proprietor, April Scarlett, considered a franchise (like Jungle Java), but wanted the freedom to bring her own expertise to the center without corporate interference. She previously owned a children's party-planning business for five years.

So when you’re considering Saline Real Estate, (especially for the schools!), you’ll know that there is a local place for your kids to work out some of their energy. This is especially important in the era of $4 per gallon gas!

For more information on Beanstalks, call (734) 944-7979 or visit

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Importance of Pricing

In good times and bad, in buyer’s markets or seller’s markets, the number one influence on the sale of your Saline real estate is Price, Price, Price. Oh, sure, the three most important issues to most buyers (and sellers) are Location, Location, and Location. But unless you have a mobile home, there’s not much you can do to move the location of your home.

Having lived in Saline since 1985, I’ve seen the changes in price of most Saline real estate over the years. In fact, since 1996, I’ve kept records of the pace of sales activity in the Saline area. It’s what I call my Total Market Overview, or TMO for short.

Using the TMO, I can show you how, since 1996, we have moved from a moderate seller’s market, to a strong seller’s market, to a neutral market, to now – a strong buyer’s market. If you’d like to see the graphical TMO, I usually post it around the middle of each month.

Today’s market conditions – a strong buyer’s market – means the following:

There are many more homes for sale than there are buyers looking for a home. In economic terms, we have too much supply chasing too few buyers. Price has to come down until the extra supply is finally sold off.

So, getting the price of the house right is the number one influence on getting your Saline Real Estate sold today, and getting on with your life.

Here's a short video that makes the point:

See also:
What $4 gas means to Saline Real Estate
Curb Appeal
It’s the Big Sale!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I'm Tired of Stairs!

Just another quick article to let you know how I recently helped a client with their real estate needs.

Bob and Zoe had grown tired of climbing stairs in their 2-story home. It was time for them to move to a home on a single level.

Geographic proximity to their children and grand-children defined the limits of our search for a ranch-style home or condo. We screened dozens of choices to find a few developments which offered the various amenities important to Bob and Zoe, which meant that we had only to visit a few properties to find the right one.

And now, Bob and Zoe are enjoying their new home, all on one floor!

Meanwhile, they are able to lease out their former home, earning income for their future needs.

So, who do you know that is tired of climbing stairs? Please pass this article along to them.

What are you waiting for?

Monday, May 5, 2008

What $4 gas means to Saline real estate

When the gas pump turns off automatically at $50 while filling your tank, you know that gas prices are REALLY high. But, what does that mean for Saline Real Estate?

Most of the articles about the price of gas are based upon an implicit assumption: that the price of gas is only temporarily as high as it is. This is not the case. Gas isn't going to get significantly cheaper than today. As a matter of fact, it’s a better bet that the price ten years from now will be much higher. It's a matter of supply and demand. Two billion people in China and India are joining the consumer society, and they want our standard of living. There was a recent article in the AP headlined Gas guzzlers a hit in China, where car sales are booming.

But while sport utility vehicle sales in the U.S. are tumbling, automakers are finding that for China's newly prosperous car buyers, bigger is still better. So General Motors Corp. has made the Escalade a star of its Chinese auto-show display, and is eager to get it on the market there. "If you look at the fastest-growing market segments in China, there are two - SUVs and luxury cars," said Joseph Y.H. Liu, GM China's vice president for sales and marketing.

It isn't a matter of price gouging by the oil companies, or even by OPEC. The real bottleneck is in refining capacity. Oh, there's only a finite supply of oil and eventually it will all be gone. But right now, the things limiting supply are how fast we can get it out of the ground, and how fast it can be refined to a usable form. It doesn't matter how much water is in the lake if you need more supply faster than the pipes can carry it.

Suburban and rural real estate (like around Saline) grew on cheap gas. Five years ago, gas was $1.40 per gallon. A car that gets 20 mph can go 70 miles on $5 worth of $1.40 gas. With gas in Saline now over $3.60 per gallon, things aren't nearly so rosy. Instead of 70 miles, that $5 will only barely take you marathon distance (26.3 miles), and it's going to get worse. At $5 per gallon, the consumer with a job in downtown Detroit who lives in Saline (40 miles) has gone from spending roughly $1400 per year on gas for their commute (five years ago) to $3600 per year on gas now, to possibly $5000 per year (when gas hits $5 per gallon). That difference of $3600 is $300 per month right out of the family budget. In most cases, two spouses are driving separately, which means that difference goes to $600 per month, or more than $7200 per year right out of their after tax income. It’s only a matter of time before already-stingy mortgage lenders figure out a way to account for a borrower’s reduced ability to re-pay a mortgage. When mortage-ability is an issue, you know that home prices will be negatively affected.

Saline isn't the furthest of Detroit's bedroom communities, by any means. I know people who commute from Tecumseh to Southfield each day. Many commutes are over 100 miles, plus all the people from even further afield (for instance, Saline to Lansing). Despite greatly augmented gas mileage, hybrids aren't going to offset this increase and even if they were, people would be adding the cost of at least one new car in order to do so. I don't know if you've looked recently, but hybrids aren't economy-car priced.

With this effectively raising the cost of living further from the job, one of two things will need to happen: Either the places where the jobs are will have to relocate to the suburbs (where their workers can afford to live), or people will have to start finding places to live closer to their jobs. The older communities closer in have long been less attractive than new developments further out (like, in Saline), but raise the price of making that trip enough, and the macroeconomic reality will force people to start thinking more in terms of shortening the commute, even if it means they have to settle for a 1200 square foot house built in 1950 instead of a new 2600 square foot one way out in Saline. People are willing to make sacrifices when it's mostly time out of their day, but when it's a continuing drain on the wallet that means little Billy can have an 8x8 bedroom and food, clothes, and a college fund, or a 15x12 bedroom and none of the others, you can expect more people to start choosing the former.

What this means is that suburban bedroom communities (like Saline) become less valuable, while older communities closer in to the job centers become more valuable. For those who may not realize what I'm saying, the closer it is to places where people work, the more valuable it will become. This factor has always been present, and the cost to commute has always been part of the cost of the property, no matter how many people pretended it wasn't. It will become a more important component as time goes by and gas prices rise further. The further people have to drive to work every day, the less a given area will be worth. The people who work there won't have these costs, of course, but most of the skilled trades that get substantial paychecks have to work in the main job centers, and there aren't as many of those in Saline or Manchester as there are in the central areas of Detroit and Ann Arbor. Corporate facilities are where they are, and if you can't afford to commute, you're either not going to work there or not going to live here.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Buy or Rent that home?

Not everyone wants to be a real estate investor. For that matter, not everyone wants to own a home of any kind. And that is okay. Some people just don't want to be "tied down" or have to deal with a leaking water heater or have to take the chance on replacing a roof.

But for those of you who are still wavering between buying and renting and are wondering how the current Saline Real Estate market plays into that decision and whether or not it is worth it and...

Let's just lay it all out there for you so you can make up your own mind.

Here is our scenario: A house in Saline that costs about $150,000 will rent for about $1200 in most of the Saline area. The house is a 3 bedroom, 1 and ½ bath brick ranch, in good condition, with (maybe) a 1 car garage. Let’s project that you will either rent there for 8 years or own there for 8 years. That’s about the average length of time a home owner stays put. Renters will move more often, but will usually move into another rental house before finally buying a home. So those are the rules.


We'll start with the renter because the numbers are more simple. Starting rent will be $1200/mo. We'll raise the rents approximately 5% every other year. Years 3-4 will be $1250/mo. Years 5-6 will be $1310/mo and years 6-8 will be $1375/mo. Sound reasonable?

At the end of the 8 years you will have paid to your landlord $123,240. And the good news is you didn't have to shell out any other expenses for repair type items.


Taking the $150,000 house, we are going to say that you are going to get a 100% loan. Don't think your’e alone! If you have little or no money to put down, you can still purchase a home in Saline. In fact, now is the perfect time to purchase a home. Historically low purchase prices, coupled with low 30 year fixed rates, are just two reasons to purchase Saline Real Estate now.

FHA IS THE WAY. There are many benefits that an FHA mortgage can provide to buyers. The most significant benefit is enabling the seller to cover a 3.0% down payment and pay all closing costs. There are no income restrictions. Whether you are a first time buyer, or a seasoned buyer, this is the most flexible program available in the mortgage industry today.

Based on a purchase price of $150,000 with the seller paying costs and down payment with a loan amount of $147,268, Principal and Interest (P&I) is $882.95 based on a 30 year fixed rate of 6.0% + PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance, required on FHA loans) of $60.63 + $275.00 estimated taxes and insurance. Your total monthly payment will be $1,218.58.


Over that same 8 year period you will pay PITI (Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance) of $116,984.

That is $6256 less than if you rented.

Now we have additional factors we have to take into account. Over that 8 year period you will have paid in interest alone $66,755. Home mortgage interest is deductible on Schedule A of your Income Tax return. If you are at the 28% tax bracket, you will have seen a tax savings of $18691 over those 8 years.

Now the difference is even more in OWN's favor, by $24,947 over the 8 years.

Another thing to think about is the reduction in the principal balance of your mortgage. Over those 8 years, each month you paid your mortgage, some of that money (at first a very small amount) went towards reducing the amount of money you owe. Over the 8 years, that amounts to $18,008.

The difference is now in OWN's favor by $42,955 over the 8 years. Do I have your attention now?

Still one more factor to take into account: Appreciation. It seems that we always talk about appreciation of home values. Lately, though, the talk is about lack of appreciation. Here in Saline, we have seen a loss in value of about 25% in the past three years.

Historically, the Saline housing market has appreciated at 5% a year. But for our purposes, we are going to use a yearly average appreciation of 3%. 8 years at 3% per year appreciation (on average) will make that $150,000 home sell for about $190,000. That is a $40,000 gain.

Now OWN's favor is by $82,955.

It is fair to say that after 8 years there will be deferred maintenance that will have to be caught up. So subtract from OWN $5000 for carpeting, $2,000 for appliances, $5,000 for painting and $5,000 for miscellaneous.

You are still left with an advantage to OWN by about $65,955.

There are, obviously, multiple variable and unknowns. The market could continue to go south like some gloom-and-doomers would have you believe. It wouldn't surprise me at all if we stay flat in 2008 and 2009.

There are those who would have us believe the stock market run-up of the '90's, and the real estate boom of the 2000's wouldn't end. They did. Now we are led to believe that the Saline Real Estate market will never rebound. It will. People will still need a home to live in. Banks will still exist, with a business model to make money by loaning money (for home purchases). You can count on that.

Another factor is lifestyle. Perhaps you just don't want to own. I understand that. I've sold duplexes where the tenants have been there more than 10 years. They liked where they lived, and didn't see any reason to do anything different.

The bottom line? Talk with an experienced Realtor®. They can guide you through the numbers of your specific situation, so you can make an informed decision.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Duplex? Do what?

One of the biggest decisions most people will ever make with their finances and their lifestyle is to buy (or sell) a home. Getting the best bargain in the purchase, or making the most profit on the sale, give buyers and sellers so much to think about that many may never stop to consider keeping that old house - or buying another - as an income-generating property. But the rewards, in savings, profits and problem-solving, can be high.

One option for buyers who otherwise might consider home prices beyond their reach is the property that pays for itself: a house you live in part of and rent out the rest (the simplest form is a duplex). This offers not only an obvious balance of cost and income, but perhaps lesser-known benefits in taxes and mortgage.

The rental unit(s) can be depreciated over time; considered to offset the rental income, this can lower your taxes on that income. At the same time, the addition of the rent to your finances helps you qualify for a larger mortgage, and investors who occupy their rental properties can, under certain conditions, get interest rates lower than those who do not. Of course you'll want to decide if the demands of being a live-in landlord are for you.

One of my early clients as a Realtor® is a prime example of what you can accomplish with an income-generating property.

Rob was in his late 20s, had a great job in the area, and earned a nice income. He could qualify for a mortgage for a “trophy” home, if he chose. Instead, Rob followed a game plan which I would have loved to have followed at his age.

Rob bought his first duplex with me in my first year of business. It needed some minor work (sweat equity) on the owner-occupied side, while the rental unit was nicely updated. Rob fixed up his side in the two years he lived there. On the two-year anniversary of the purchase of his duplex, Rob called to ask about the available duplexes on the market. He bought his second duplex a month later. He moved into the new duplex, taking the “worst” side for himself, and renting out both sides of his first duplex.

Over the next two years, Rob fixed up the unit he lived in, building more sweat equity. As Rob and I were regularly in contact, I knew to send him the list of available duplexes at his purchase anniversary date. Rob bought his third duplex almost four years after his first duplex.

Why always two years between purchases? Tax purposes only. Not being a tax-law expert, I’m not qualified to explain exactly why Rob always waited two years between purchases, except to say that he always explained it as being for “tax purposes”. Ok.

To make a long story short, Rob now owns five duplexes. The first three are fully paid for. The income from those three are used to pay down the fourth duplex. By the time that Rob is in his mid-40’s, he will have all five duplexes fully paid for. He can retire, if he wishes, and live off the passive income for the rest of his life. But knowing Rob, he’ll keep building his empire.

Owning an income-generating property is not for everyone, but - from younger buyers offsetting their purchase costs, to seniors easing the expenses of their retirement years - it can be for all kinds of people.

Who know? You could be the next “Rob” that I’ll be writing about?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Junk Mail

With no fear of heights, I’m not worried about climbing up on a soapbox for a good rant. Here goes:

I’ve written previously about the struggles of my aging parents. If we’re fortunate to have our parents around for much of our adult lives, it’s something that we all have to go through. Think of it as an educational opportunity to prepare for our own aging – should that actually occur.

One of the tasks which my parents have asked that I assist with is to go through their mail, which I’ve been doing for a couple of months now. And what I have to rant about today stems from that mail-opening experience.

It is absolutely abominable what some so-called “marketers” will do to trick the gullible (in my parents’ case, elderly)! Using envelopes with borders similar to the IRS’ official mail. Using business names (in the return address area) which closely imitate an official government entity. Using stationery which closely approximates what you would expect from a government entity. These are all very common, and frequent, occurrences I’ve experienced in going through my parents’ mail. Much to the chagrin of the mail marketers (they didn’t expect that some educated 40-something would actually read their material), I just chuck it all in the trash, cursing their businesses all the while. So far, I haven’t resorted to a common mail-marketer revenge tactic – to mail all their junk back to them in their postage-paid envelopes – but that’s coming!

No, I didn’t take photos of examples of these offending mail pieces – I didn’t want to run afoul of the law. No doubt, though, that those b*****ds know full well who they are! And if you’re in the “appropriate” demographic for their marketing efforts, you’ve seen their proffering already. Again, I say, B*****DS!!!

No Realtor® worth their MLS would ever disdain the use of mail in their own marketing efforts. It’s one of the many effective marketing efforts that we use in our daily business. But stoop to the level of those mail marketers who prey on the elderly and gullible with their shameless approach? Never!

Let this be a lesson to all Realtors®. Use the mails, but use them with respect for yourcustomer, your profession, and yourself.

OK, I’ll step off the soapbox now.

Friday, April 25, 2008

What do you want - Part I

When it’s time for you to begin looking at Saline real estate, the first question I’ll ask you is “What do you want?”

Let me paint a word picture: Why does a 60-watt bulb light a room, but give little warmth, while a laser beam will burn a hole through the wall? The answer: Focus.

The more focused you can become about what you really want in your Saline real estate, the more powerful a force you become in the marketplace.

But, how do you really know what you want?

Your first inclination may be to go out and look at lots of houses. You want to experience first-hand what your “wants” both look and feel like.

Many people start off with a list of requirements that look like:
“Must Have”: What you absolutely know you want
“Should Have”: What you think you want
“Could Have”: What you’re not sure you want
“Won't Have: What you absolutely know you don't want

For any number of reasons, what people say they want doesn't always line up with what they really want in their minds and hearts. A lot of times that's because of the difference between theory and application: being able to actually drive the commute or experience how many flights of stairs there are gives people a clearer picture of "Could" vs. "Won't". The tricky part is separating the borderline "Must Have"s from the "Should Have"s.

Have you ever heard the advice, "You should always buy a home where there are good schools?" There are advantages to this because these are neighborhoods which are (in general) the last ones to decline and the first ones to appreciate, but remember that if the neighborhood has a reputation for good schools, that reputation is already priced into the house.

If you have school-age children, you may save money by buying in a less expensive neighborhood and sending your kids to private schools. You will get more house for your money if you don't have to pay for the school district's reputation. And you may get more upside from an ascending school district which is building a great reputation than one that's maintaining its high scores. When the best kept secret in the area comes out, people will be looking for that good value.

Most of us consider commuting a necessary evil based on where we live and work. Time is money, right? Well, almost, because no matter where you were born, what your parents have, or what your opportunities are, everyone starts off with 24 hours in a day.

You can measure the value of your time in two ways. Economists measure the value of time in terms of opportunity cost, the amount of money you can make with your time at its highest and best use. Most people measure it in exactly the same way except with things they can be doing - activities like spending time with the family, or reading a book.

Now consider the cost of your commute. Let's say you've live in your home for five years and take the same commute each day. You earn a conveniently round number $100,000 and work 50 weeks out of the year for 5 days a week. Here's what your commute costs:

At only half-an-hour each way, the commute costs $62,500 over that period and $125,000 if your commute is an hour (two hours a day) each way!

There's no value judgment behind these numbers. Some people want to save money to keep their families fed, happy and well-educated so they will trade more commute time for cash savings. Others prioritize spending more quality time doing other things and choose to allocate more resources to the problem. My thanks to Steve Leung for this analysis and the ideas built around it.

The beauty is that the choice is up to you and experiencing a house search with an expert is an effective way of truly understanding what you want and what you're willing to trade-off in your search for your Saline real estate.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

PMI, or Private Mortgage Insurance

As a home buyer in Saline, you want to know everything about the process before talking with anyone about your plans. That’s completely understandable.

Toward that end, I’d like to address the topic of Private Mortgage Insurance, or PMI. You’ll be paying PMI, in one way or another, whenever you put less than 20% downpayment on your Saline home purchase. If you’re a first-time homebuyer in Saline, coming up with that 20% downpayment may be a real struggle, so it’s especially important to understand PMI.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Lenders mortgage insurance (LMI), also known as Private mortgage insurance (PMI) in the US, is insurance payable to a lender or trustee for a pool of securities that may be required when taking out a mortgage loan. It is insurance to offset losses in the case where a mortgagor is not able to repay the loan and the lender is not able to recover its costs after foreclosure and sale of the mortgaged property.

Another way to put it is that PMI is extra insurance that lenders require from most homebuyers who obtain loans that are more than 80 percent of their new home's value.

PMI plays an important role in the mortgage industry by protecting a lender against loss if you default on a loan, and by enabling borrowers with less cash (like a first-time buyer) to have greater access to homeownership. With PMI, it is possible for you to buy a home with as little as a 3 percent to 5 percent down payment. This means that you can buy a home sooner without waiting years to accumulate a large down payment.

In the past, most lenders honored consumers' requests to drop PMI coverage if their loan balance was paid down to 80 percent of the property value and they had a good payment history. However, consumers were responsible for requesting cancellation and many consumers were not aware of this possibility. Consumers had to keep track of their loan balance to know if they had enough equity and they had to request that the lender discontinue requiring PMI coverage. (As a side note, I track your home’s value for you, and call my clients when it appears that they may be able to drop PMI). In many cases, people failed to make this request even after they became eligible, and they paid unnecessary premiums ranging from $250 to $1,200 per year for several years. With the new law, both consumers and lenders share responsibility for how long PMI coverage is required.

You have the right to request cancellation of PMI when you pay down your mortgage to the point that it equals 80 percent of the original purchase price or appraised value of your home at the time the loan was obtained, whichever is less. You also need a good payment history, meaning that you have not been 30 days late with your mortgage payment within a year of your request, or 60 days late within two years. Your lender may require evidence that the value of the property has not declined below its original value and that the property does not have a second mortgage, such as a home equity loan.

Mortgage lenders or servicers must automatically cancel PMI coverage on most loans, once you pay down your mortgage to 78 percent of the value if you are current on your loan. If the loan is delinquent on the date of automatic termination, the lender must terminate the coverage as soon thereafter as the loan becomes current. Lenders must terminate the coverage within 30 days of cancellation or the automatic termination date, and are not permitted to require PMI premiums after this date. Any unearned premiums must be returned to you within 45 days of the cancellation or termination date.

For high risk loans, mortgage lenders or servicers are required to automatically cancel PMI coverage once the mortgage is paid down to 77 percent of the original value of the property, provided you are current on your loan.

If PMI has not been canceled or otherwise terminated, coverage must be removed when the loan reaches the midpoint of the amortization period. On a 30-year loan with 360 monthly payments, for example, the chronological midpoint would occur after 180 payments. This provision also requires that the borrower must be current on the payments required by the terms of the mortgage. Final termination must occur within 30 days of this date.

It’s always best to speak with a lender before beginning your home-shopping experience. Your lender will explain to you all of your options regarding PMI. If you’d like the names of some outstanding local lenders, give me a call or send an e-mail.

Monday, April 21, 2008

1469 Middlewood, Saline

Open House - Sunday, June 8, 2-4 pm

Welcome to this brief tour of my new listing at 1469 Middlewood in Saline. Priced at $249,900, it is available immediately.

This super-sharp colonial in Maplewood Farms is in a great location – central to the subdivision, on the northern edge of Saline, within walking distance to the elementary and middle schools, the public library, and near a main road into Ann Arbor.

This traditional, yet highly-versatile home is in beautiful, move-in condition with lots of natural light. You will be impressed.

A bright white kitchen.

Generously large bedrooms.

A partially-finished basement.

And if you act in time, you can enjoy summer evenings in the huge screened porch or out on the deck.

* City of Saline
* Taxes: Approximately $5576 (2007)
* Schools: Saline

This is a fabulous home!